A group of 45 Democratic lawmakers Wednesday called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to withdraw the U.S. from the G20 summit next month in Saudi Arabia unless the kingdom promises reforms on a long list of human rights abuses.
"I could not think of a worse selection to host the G20 summit," Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said at a news conference announcing the letter to Pompeo urging the boycott. "Saudi Arabia's government stands in stark contrast with every ideal we claim to uphold as Americans. It's an absolute monarchy without any form of democratic representation. It consistently violates women's rights and kills innocent people, including its own citizens."
Saudi Arabia is slated to host the virtual summit of world leaders from its capital city of Riyadh starting Nov. 21. But the human rights abuses have come front and center as a growing list of leaders are snubbing the engagement with Saudi Arabia.
The European Parliament voted to downgrade its participation in the G20. The mayors of London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles all boycotted the U20 urban summit ahead of the G20 over human rights concerns. And this fall, Saudi Arabia failed to get a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Omar and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., joined with family members of imprisoned activists to call on the Trump administration Wednesday to stand up for women and those who have been detained, tortured and killed by Saudi Arabia, including writer Jamal Khashoggi.
"If we are to be the nation that stands for human rights, for justice and for accountability, then it is critical that the United States withdraw its full participation in this year's G20 as long as it is being hosted by the Saudi Arabians and in Riyadh," Schakowsky said.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The letter states that the U.S. should not participate unless Saudi Arabia’s monarchy ends "its record of human rights violations, reckless foreign policy, and environmental destruction."
Among the specific demands: releasing human rights and women activists from prison, providing true accountability for Khashoggi's murder, ending its war in Yemen, allowing journalists to report freely and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by state-owned Saudi Aramco, a major fossil fuel producer.
The lawmakers raised special concerns for women in Saudi Arabia and have called for abolishing the male guardianship system, repealing laws that give husbands absolute control over wives and making clear that marital rape is a crime.
"Today, human rights and civil society norms are under threat across the world," the letter states. "Our government has an obligation to ensure that G20 convenings are not used by host governments to obscure or hide their own repressive and environmentally destructive practices."