Paris – On Tuesday 22 September, 2020 the Francophone Association for Human Rights (AFDH) wrote to the Mayors of Paris, London, Milan, Berlin and Rome urging them to withdraw from attending Saudi Arabia’s G20 and Urban 20 Mayors summit which is due to take place from September 30 to October 2 – the anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
Highlighting concern, AFDH noted that, “Saudi Arabia is using the G20 summit as a mask to hide the country’s autocratic regime which has a long-standing history of committing human rights violations.” Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has worsened in recent years under the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman’s dictatorship which saw the atrocious assisnation of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Saudi Arabia has been opaque throughout the entire justice process and has failed to provide any genuine accountability for Khashoggi’s death. Many questions remain over Prince Mohammed’s responsibility in ordering the killing, as many western intelligence agencies have suggested he had prior knowledge of the operation. The United Naiton’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard, found in an investigative report “credible evidence” that Prince Mohammed and other Saudi officials were culpable for Khashoggi’s murder.
The Saudi government has repeatedly shown an intolerance towards journalists and human rights defenders by arbitrarily arresting, torturing and sentencing them for their peaceful activism and journalistic work. Alongside Egypt, Saudi Arabia has currently the third-highest number of journalists in jail. At the end of December 2019, the kingdom had on record, 26 journalists imprisoned and no charges were disclosed in 18 of those cases.
In 2018, Saudi Arabia conducted a nationwide crackdown on Saudi women activists challenging the prejudicial male guardianship system by peacefully campaigning for their right to drive. Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah, Nouf Abdulaziz and dozens of other activists were detained and many reported to have been tortured while in detention, including flogging, electric shocks, sexual harassment, solitary confinement and other ill-treatment during interrogation. While some women have been temporarily released, many are carrying out their prison sentences with some still waiting trial years after their arrest.
The Crown Prince has made limited progress in demolishing the male guardianship system. Women are still severely discriminated against and need a man’s permission to leave prison, marry, divorce and leave a domestic abuse shelter.
Saudi Arabia currently executes more people than any other country in the world. In 2019, the country reached a record number of executions. A total of 184 people were put to death, including 6 women and 178 men – 90 of whom were foreign nationals. On April 23, 2019, 37 people were executed in a single day, spawning international condemnation as most of them received terrorism-related charges which were made under duress.
The Kingdom’s involvement in the conflict in Yemen – which has been deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, has forced over 3.6 million people to flee their homes and over 24 million people (80% of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance. Since conflict began in March 2015, more than 100,000 people have been killed due to direct and indirect attacks on civilians. The war has also led to wide-spread famine, killing more than 85,000 children and infrastructure and basic health services are completely decrepit.
AFDH called upon the five Mayors to ensure that Saudi Arabia makes genuine reforms to its human rights record and take appropriate measures to end its human rights abuses. This includes:
- Complete transparency in Jamal Khashoggi’s case and genuine accountability for his death.
- The immediate and unconditional release of activists, journalists and other prisoners of conscience who have peacefully advocated for women’s rights, exercised their right to freedom of expression, journalistic work and other activism.
- Stop the discrimination of women by abolishing the country’s male guardianship system. No woman should be forced to require permission from a man to leave prison, marry, divorce, and leave a domestic abuse shelter. Furthermore, marital rape should be recognized as a crime as it is in international law.
- Abolish the death penalty.
- Withdraw troops from Yemen and engage in serious peace talks to stop the destruction and give Yemen a proper chance to rebuild its society.
We at the Francophone Association for Human Rights believe that “Saudi Arabia should have no involvement in the 2020 G20 summit or Urban 20, let alone be hosting it without first repairing its human rights record.”
It is our hope that this boycott will send a clear signal to Saudi Arabia that the time of impunity is over and human rights abuses cannot be glossed over or ignored.