Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday called G20 member states to pressure Saudi Arabia into freeing its illegally detained activists, launching the #G20SaudiArabia initiative.
Despite recent attempts to repair its global image, Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, known for its mass crackdowns on human rights activists, many of whom are women. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was awarded the G20 presidency for 2020, which many G20 members have protested. HRW Deputy Middle East director Michael Page sharply criticized the decision in a recent statement highlighting the G20’s hypocrisy in nominating the Crown Prince. “The G20 presidency has conferred an undeserved mark of international prestige on the government of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Instead of signaling its concern for Saudi Arabia’s serious abuses, the G20 is bolstering the Saudi government’s well-funded publicity efforts to portray the country as ‘reforming’ despite a significant increase in repression since 2017.”
At the conference, HRW demanded the immediate release of illegally detained activists including Loujain al-Hathloul, Nassima al-Sadah, Nouf Abdulaziz, Raif Badawi, Salah Haidar and Walid Abu al-Khair. HRW also urged Saudi Arabia to undertake a series of steps to address its human rights crisis, including granting permissions for UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen to access the country’s Defense Ministry and Riyadh headquarters. HRW also requested an independent international investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.