Tillerson Refuses to Label Saudi Arabia a Human Rights Violator

Rex Tillerson argues Saudi Arabia is making progress on human rights, and refuses to label the theocracy a human rights violator.

In his confirmation hearing today, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state said he is not sure if Saudi Arabia violates human rights.

At the confirmation hearing Senator MarcoRubio asked Tillerson:

I’m sure you’re also aware of the the lack of both religious freedoms and the lack of rights of women in Saudi Arabia. In your opinion is Saudi Arabia a human rights violator?

When Rubio asked Tillerson if he would label the brutal theocracy a human rights violator, the future secretary of state refused to acknowledge the obvious. Instead of answering the question, Tillerson gave Rubio a lecture about applying labels like “human rights violator” to despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia, claiming such a tactic was counter-productive.

Tillerson told Rubio:

When you designate someone or label someone, is that the most effective way to have progress be able to be made in Saudi Arabia or any other country?


I’m also clear-eyed and realistic about dealing in cultures.

Tillerson then went on to suggest that Saudi Arabia is making progress on human rights, although “the pace has been slow.” Tillerson said:

… what I do believe is it (Saudi Arabia) is moving in the direction that we wanted to move and what I wouldn’t want to do is to take some kind of a precipitous action the suddenly causes the leadership and the king of Saudi Arabia have to interrupt that I’d like for them to continue to make that progress

Tillerson’s refusal to simply acknowledge the obvious and accept the fact that Saudi Arabia is a human rights violator is alarming. Indeed, the Gulf State has one of the world’s worst human rights record.

For the record, the Saudi kingdom is a backward, ugly, mean, and repressive theocracy; a brutal regime that gives out the death penalty for homosexuality, denies women the most basic human rights, and commits many other despicable human rights abuses.

In Saudi Arabia, women are second class citizens, treated more like children than adults. Women are required to dress in black from head to toe, and require permission from a male guardian to travel, work and/or marry.

Adding insult to injury, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which does not allow women to drive.

In addition to the abysmal treatment of women and homosexuals, Saudi Arabia is a place where migrant workers are routinely tortured and sexually abused, while young children are frequently imprisoned without trial and executed.

In Saudi Arabia, atheists are considered terrorists, and atheism is prosecuted as a crime, with lengthy prison sentences for anyone “calling for atheist thought” or “calling into question the fundamentals of Islam.”

In Saudi Arabia there is no political freedom, no religious freedom, no freedom of speech. It is, in fact, one of the most repressive regimes in recent history, and an affront to human rights and human dignity.

Saudi Arabia does not have a written constitution or an elected legislative body. There are no elections of any kind. All political parties are banned, as are most forms of association. All critical political expression is forbidden. The press is strictly regulated, and assembly is severely restricted.

In short, if any country can be called a human rights violator, it is Saudi Arabia.

Bottom line: It may not be surprising that Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, refused to condemn the appalling human rights record of Saudi Arabia, one of the largest oil producing nations in the world. However, his refusal to label the backward and brutal theocracy a human rights violator does strongly suggest that he is not qualified to serve as secretary of state.

Watch the encounter between Rubio and Tillerson below. Relevant remarks begin around the 6:00 minute mark:

Rex Tillerson (Image via Screen Grab)
Rex Tillerson (Image via Screen Grab)
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