International

Monitoring Bush: Saudis off the hook again

Last month I noted that the Bush administration had failed to act as required by law after designating Saudi Arabia as a country which severely restricts religious freedom.

Now the kid gloves treatment continues, the Associated Press reported last week:

President Bush decided… to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington’s closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.

In June the State Department accused Saudi Arabia and 13 other countries of failing to take even minimal actions to control human trafficking.

Saudi Arabia is an addition to the list. Other countries, including Cuba and Venezuela, are holdovers from last year.

According to the State Department’s annual report on human trafficking:

Saudi Arabia is a destination for men and women from South and East Asia and East Africa trafficked for the purpose of labor exploitation, and for children from Yemen, Afghanistan, and Africa trafficking for forced begging. Hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers from India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Kenya migrate voluntarily to Saudi Arabia; some fall into conditions of involuntary servitude, suffering from physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, the withholding of travel documents, restrictions on their freedom of movement and non-consensual contract alterations

The Government of Saudi Arabia does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so… Despite reports of trafficking and abuses of domestic and other unskilled workers and children, there is evidence of only one Saudi Government prosecution of a Saudi employer for a trafficking-related offense during the reporting period. Some victims of abuse, due to procedural hurdles, choose to leave the country rather than confront their abusers in court. They are required first to file a complaint with the police before they are allowed access to shelters. The government offers no legal aid to foreign victims and does not otherwise assist them in using the Saudi criminal justice system to bring their exploiters to justice.

The AP reported that two other countries– Ecuador and Kuwait– were given a complete pass on sanctions. Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea were the only countries “barred completely from receiving certain kinds of foreign aid.”

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