Families of US detainees in Saudi Arabia excluded from Blinken call
Weeks before the US President's visit to Saudi Arabia, the State Department excludes the families of US detainees in Saudi Arabia from a call with Blinken.
The Guardian reported that the family members of several United States nationals who are detained in Saudi Arabia were not invited to attend a call with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.
The news website mentioned that the exclusion of these families from the June 22 call between Blinken and the relatives of US nationals who are hostages or wrongfully detained in several countries, was made weeks before US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East.
Biden's visit is expected to improve the relations between Washington and Riyadh, which saw complications over the involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in the murder of US-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The US President's visit will also focus on improving relations between Saudi Arabia and "Israel". The irony is that during his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden vowed to make the Kingdom a “pariah” to hold MBS accountable for ordering the murder of Khashoggi in 2018.
"Intentional and hypocritical cherry-picking"
The Guardian mentioned that Blinken's meeting with the relatives of the US nationals "did not include the families of American Walid Fitaihi, a doctor who is under travel ban in Saudi Arabia, or the families of Salah Al-Haidar and his mother Aziza Al-Yousef, a prominent woman’s rights activist and US national who are all barred from leaving Saudi. The family of Badr Ibrahim, a US-Saudi journalist, was also not invited."
The news website quoted one critic who spoke on the condition of anonymity as saying that “The intentional and hypocritical cherry-picking of which ‘wrongful detention’ cases to raise or meet with is infuriating and discriminatory."
“The willingness of the US to expend its political capital in resolving wrongful detention cases is not consistent and is based on some arbitrary criteria: is your wrongfully detained family member detained in a country that is a foe or ally? Is it a picture-perfect case that is ripe for resolution?" the critic pointed out.
"Human rights concerns have been sacrificed"
A US Department of State official claimed that the department determines whether individuals were wrongfully detained by reviewing their cases under the Levinson Act.
“The review assesses the facts of the case against enumerated criteria, without regard to political factors such as the US relationship with the country of detention,” the official said.
In the same context, Seth Binder, director of advocacy at Pomed, considered that any decision to exclude the families of detained Saudi-US nationals from the call with Blinken call was troubling.
Binder also highlighted that Biden’s coming meeting with MBS shows that "human rights concerns have been sacrificed for what they have determined are more important national security interests."