Human Rights Watch urges G20 leaders to press the Kingdom to release illegally detained prisoners ahead of a November 21 leaders summit.

A prominent legal organization has called on the G20 leading economies to urge Saudi Arabia to release all illegally detained people and take responsibility for past abuses before a summit of leaders is due to take place in the kingdom later this month.

In a statement on Monday, Human Rights Watch said the G20 has given Riyadh this year’s presidency “despite the Saudi government’s relentless assault on fundamental freedoms, including the detention and harassment of dissidents and human rights defenders, illegal attacks on civilians in Yemen and disregard for international people Appeals for responsibility for the murder of state agents by Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi ”.

Two years since Saudi agents murdered Khashoggi at the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, there has been no responsibility for high-ranking officials who were involved in his murder.

Instead, Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars on entertainment, cultural and sporting events to hide its human rights abuses, according to HRW.

“The G20 supports the Saudi government’s well-funded publicity efforts to portray the country as ‘reforming’ despite a sharp rise in repression since 2017,” said Michael Page, deputy director for the Middle East at HRW.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), King Salman’s son and de facto ruler of the country, has struggled to consolidate power since removing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as heir to the throne in a 2017 palace coup.

Less than two weeks before the November 21 virtual summit, HRW called on G20 members to allow an independent international body to investigate the Khashoggi assassination and review all court documents from the trial of those allegedly responsible for the murder was completed in September.

“The G20 countries can make a difference and play an important role in persuading Saudi Arabia to stop its human rights abuses,” said Page.

Several intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have reportedly concluded that MBS ordered the killing of Khashoggi – allegations Riyadh has denied. The Saudi government alleged that the intelligence officers responsible for the killing had become villains.

HRW recommended that the G20 countries stop Saudi Arabia’s attempts to whitewash its abuses by urging the release of all Saudi human rights defenders who “have been charged with vague crimes for their activism”.

These include women’s rights activists arrested in 2018, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Nassema al-Sadah, Samer Badawi and Nouf Abdulaziz, as well as Salah Haidar, Waleed Abu al-Khair, Essam Koshak and Raif Badawi.

HRW also urged countries to enable the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen to fulfill their mandate by facilitating access to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in the Yemen war in 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was removed from the capital Sanaa in 2014 by the Houthi rebels.

The conflict, a military impasse, has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the United Nations. Tens of thousands of people – mostly civilians – have been killed and millions of others are threatened with starvation.


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