.- The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to take action against Saudi Arabia, reported the Catholic News Service. In a letter to Rice this week, the commission said the U.S. should impose restrictions against Saudi Arabia within the next month because of severe freedom of religion and human rights violations, including torture, cruel and degrading treatment, detention without charge and coercive measures aimed at women.
In addition, Saudi Arabia prohibits all public religious expression other than Islam and has been accused of supporting the spread of an ideology of hatred, intolerance and violence abroad.
The commission was set up under the 1999 International Religious Freedom Act. Since then, it has recommended that the State Department add Saudi Arabia to the list of "countries of particular concern" four years in a row.
Last year, under former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Eritrea were added to the list, which already included China, Iran, Burma, North Korea and Sudan on the list. But no concrete action was taken.
The commission now wants Rice to take action against those Saudi officials responsible for abuses by March 15. It believes inaction will inevitably undermine U.S. efforts to promote religious freedom.
The commission recommended that the U.S. not allow into the country Saudi government officials, who are responsible for severe violations or who support the spread of hate, intolerance, and human rights violations abroad. It also recommended that the U.S. issue a warning, urging the Saudi government to stop funding such activities abroad.
In addition, the commission has urged the U.S. should not issue licenses to export materials that could be used for both military and civilian purposes. Last year’s American exports to Saudi Arabia included shackles, leg-irons "and other items that could be used to perpetrate human rights violations," reported the commission.