Saudi Arabia

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor


The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Saudi Arabia's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at

Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The United States works with the government and civil society leaders to encourage reforms that counter extremism and facilitate the development of a stable, responsive, transparent, and accountable state that embodies international human rights standards and welcomes civic participation in the political process. The U.S. Government continues to engage actively with the government to encourage wider public involvement in decision-making processes, support open political and civil society institutions, increase government accountability, strengthen religious freedom, and ensure rights for ethnic and religious minorities, women, and foreign workers.

Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human
Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States urges the government to promote political participation, transparency, and official accountability as part of our overall bilateral dialogue. U.S. officials meet regularly with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), as well as with other civic organizations, to encourage political discussion on topics such as the increasing importance of the Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shura), municipal councils, and the rights of women and minority groups. In 2009 and 2010 U.S. officials engaged the HRC and the NSHR on child marriage, combating trafficking in persons, freedom of religion, and due process issues. The U.S. Government works with human rights organizations to encourage the government to reexamine the cases of individuals who appear to be victims of serious human rights violations.

The U.S. Government continues to utilize its programs to build respect for democratic values. Through the International Visitor Leadership Program and the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the United States has sponsored government officials and civil society members to participate in seminars and workshops on topics such as the rule of law in judicial reform, human rights advocacy and awareness, religious and public education in the United States, U.S. elections, NGO administration, participatory democracy, civil liberties, youth leadership, and volunteerism. The United States provides exchanges and training to promote progress toward an independent judiciary, community involvement in government decision-making, investigative journalism, grassroots democracy, and women's health. The United States continues to encourage civil society development through U.S. speaker programs co-hosted by local civil society organizations as well as local and regional workshops. In March 2008 the United States initiated a media exchange program with radio and television talk show hosts to sharpen professional skills, encourage moderation, promote democratic values, and counter extremist ideas. In October 2008 to complement the government's judicial reform efforts, the United States organized a two-week program on court administration, specialized courts, and courtroom technology for a visiting Saudi judicial delegation. The United States also promoted civic participation by sponsoring election-training programs for women. To help strengthen institutional capacity, the United States funds programs that provide training and technical assistance for members of the Consultative Council and the 178 municipal councils.

The United States advocates consistently for religious freedom in the country. In January 2009 the United States re-designated Saudi Arabia as a Country of Particular Concern for severe violations of religious freedom. U.S. officials regularly raise with government officials the issue of religious freedom and call on them to protect private religious worship by non-Muslims, eliminate discrimination against religious minorities, and promote tolerance towards non-Muslims. The United States supports the Kingdom's interfaith dialogue initiative to promote religious dialogue and tolerance. The United States continues to encourage the government to revise its school textbooks to remove intolerant passages advocating violence, disparaging or promoting hatred toward other religions, or encouraging hostility toward other Islamic sects. Several exchange programs and U.S. speaker programs have promoted religious tolerance.

The United States encourages the government to raise public awareness of abuse of foreign workers, particularly household workers, and to extend labor protections to these workers. The United States advocates for long-term improvements in the status and legal rights of foreign laborers under Saudi labor law and for the enforcement of existing protections. In coordination with source-country governments, the United States works to promote improved legal protections for foreign workers, prevent forced labor and trafficking in persons, protect trafficking victims, and investigate and prosecute traffickers. In 2009 the government passed a new law to combat Trafficking in Persons. In 2009 the United States delivered a government-hosted three-day anti-trafficking training course for law enforcement officials, judges, and civil servants to help begin implementation of the country's new law. U.S. education and training objectives for the country's military include increasing awareness of international norms of human rights and fostering greater respect for the principles of civilian control over the military and the rule of law.