AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia has sentenced 14 political activists to death by beheading after pro-democracy protests during the Arab Spring, described by the United Nations as being peaceful; several were juveniles at the time of the alleged offense, and one was disabled. These young men include Mujtaba'a al-Sweikat, who was detained at the airport on his way to attend Western Michigan University, where a number of faculty members are represented by our union; and

WHEREAS, Saudi courts convicted the 14 after flawed trials based on confessions they had repudiated in court, saying they were coerced. Human rights investigators have long criticized the Saudi justice system for lack of due process and for coerced confessions that have been drawn by physical punishment and prolonged solitary confinement; and

WHEREAS, Saudi Arabia is the only country that carries out beheadings as a form of capital punishment; more than 50 of these horrific public beheadings have been conducted this year; and

WHEREAS, despite being signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many international civil and human rights treaties, Saudi Arabia has been singled out time and again for policies of arbitrary arrest, unfair trials and conviction of peaceful dissidents. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has said the United States doesn't "support Saudi Arabia when it comes to human rights," and the U.S. Department of State has been critical of the country’s restrictions on universal rights, lack of equal rights that affect every aspect of women’s lives, denial of judicial due process, lack of equal rights for children, and failure to protect its noncitizen workforce; and

WHEREAS, Saudi Arabia seeks investment from partners worldwide, including major U.S. investment funds. Several of these U.S. investment funds manage the retirement savings of American Federation of Teachers members—educators, healthcare workers and public sector employees—into the hundreds of millions of dollars. These public sector workers, whose lifetime savings are placed in these funds, have a right to know that their savings have been invested wisely and ethically; and

WHEREAS, the AFT has stood at the front of social justice and civil rights movements worldwide for more than 100 years, both inside the labor movement and in the wider society:

RESOLVED, the American Federation of Teachers joins the international human rights community in calling on the government of Saudi Arabia to commute the death sentences—and grant the immediate and unconditional release—of the 14 young men accused and sentenced to death for peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrations; the unfair trials, years of confinement, forced confessions, torture, beatings and physical abuse they have suffered are horrific violations of human rights and basic humanity; and

RESOLVED, the AFT declares that the use, or even the threat, of capital punishment by beheading can never be justified; it is savage and barbaric, and, by definition, places outside the community of nations any modern state demanding its use and makes such state guilty of resorting to the cruelty used among terrorists; and

RESOLVED, the AFT will continue an awareness campaign among education and public sector employee pension funds that have financial interests in Saudi Arabia; and

RESOLVED, the AFT will continue to protest the case of the 14 young men among appropriate U.S. government and United Nations authorities, including calling on the intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council to act on their behalf; and

RESOLVED, the AFT joins Education International, wider voices of labor and international human rights defenders worldwide in criticizing Saudi Arabia’s attempt to transform its economy, and in criticizing its human rights violations. The society will fail without granting equal rights to women and girls, and without allowing its citizens universal rights guaranteed to all.


Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.