- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2004

Saudi human rights

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan is praising the establishment of an independent Saudi human rights group as an example of the kingdom’s commitment to political and economic reforms.

The State Department, however, continues to criticize Saudi Arabia for a poor human rights record that includes restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

Prince Bandar says a new nongovernmental National Human Rights Association will consist of 41 members who will work with foreign experts to monitor Saudi Arabia’s commitments pledged in international human rights charters. The association will include a special panel to monitor discrimination against women.

“The establishment of the human rights organization is just another step in Saudi Arabia’s integrated reform program,” the ambassador said in a statement. “Institutions such as these are the foundation for successful and lasting reforms.”

The State Department’s latest human rights report cited Saudi Arabia for a “poor” record on the liberties enshrined in international accords, such as the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The report identified reports of abuse by the Saudi religious police and by security forces who tortured prisoners.

“The government restricted freedom of assembly, association, religion and movement,” the report said. “Violence and discrimination against women, violence against children, discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and strict limitations on workers’ rights continued.”

No bases in Algeria

The U.S. Embassy in Algiers has issued a statement denying news reports that Washington wants to open military bases in Algeria.

“The United States has not set up nor [does it] intend to install any military bases in Algeria. Reports in the press to this end are baseless,” the embassy said. It did not identify the source of the news reports.

The embassy added praise for Algeria’s cooperation with the United States in the war on terrorism.

“Algeria’s contribution to the war against terrorism has been remarkable,” the embassy said.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Zieba Shorish-Shamley, executive director of the Women’s Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan, who addresses Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty about the status of women in Afghanistan two years after the overthrow of the Taliban regime.

• Dutch Finance Minister Joop Wijn, who meets with Treasury Secretary John W. Snow to sign an amended U.S.-Netherlands income-tax treaty.

• Nasreen Barwari, Iraq’s minister for municipalities, and Asla Aydintasbas of Turkey’s Sabah newspaper. They participate in an International Women’s Day discussion sponsored by the U.N. Information Center.

Wednesday

• Luis Rubio, president of Mexico’s Center of Research for Development, who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue on Mexican politics.

• Israeli doctor Zeev Wiener of the Hosen Center for Trauma and Disaster in Tel Aviv and Palestinian doctor Jumana Hassan Odeh-Issawi, director of the Happy Child Center in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They meet with Americans for Peace Now to discuss the impact of the Palestinian uprising on their communities.

Thursday

• A Canadian delegation that includes John Bolger, a member of the National Energy Board; Mel Knight, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta; Dan McFadyen, deputy minister of energy of Nova Scotia; and Richard Neufeld, minister of energy of British Columbia. They address the Canadian-American Business Council on natural-gas production.

• Tzipi Livni, an Israel Cabinet minister from the Likud bloc, and Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli parliament and a Labor Party member. They address the Israel Policy Forum.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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