G20 Leaders: Urge Saudi Arabia to end its human rights violations

19 November 2020

November 19, 2020

The Honorable Alberto Fernández, President, Argentina
The Honorable Scott Morrison, Prime Minister, Australia
The Honorable Jair Bolsonaro, President, Brazil
The Honorable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Canada
The Honorable Xi Jinping, President, China
The Honorable Charles Michel, President, European Council
The Honorable Ursula von der Leyen, President, European Commission
The Honorable Emmanuel Macron, President, France
The Honorable Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany
The Honorable Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, India
The Honorable Joko Widodo, President, Indonesia
The Honorable Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister, Italy
The Honorable Yoshihide Suga, Prime Minister, Japan
The Honorable Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President, Mexico
The Honorable Vladimir Putin, President, Russia
The Honorable Cyril Ramaphosa, President, South Africa
The Honorable Moon Jae-in, President, South Korea
The Honorable Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President, Turkey
The Honorable Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, United Kingdom
The Honorable Donald Trump, President, United States

Dear G20 Leaders:

We are deeply concerned by your governments’ potential participation in Saudi Arabia’s G20 Leader’s Summit this Saturday and Sunday, November 21st and 22nd. As an absolute monarchy without any form of meaningful democratic representation, the Saudi government has a long record of silencing the very voices that are necessary for a honest global conversation regarding the massive challenges we collectively face. Saudi Arabia’s brutal record has only intensified since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince in 2017.

We urge you to publicly demand that the Saudi government take clear and immediate steps towards ending its record of human rights violations, reckless foreign policy, and environmental destruction. A comprehensive list of human rights reforms is further below. These reforms must include:

- Ending the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including ending Saudi Arabia and UAE’s bombardment, blockades, and starvation of thousands of Yemeni civilians.

- Freeing all prisoners of conscience, including women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, Islamic scholar Salman Alodah, aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, human right advocate Waleed Abu al-Khair, and members of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA).

- True accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, including an independent international criminal investigation into his murder.

- Ensuring the right to political participation, including the establishment of an elected parliament, as well as the selection of the head of the executive through direct elections or by parliament, as described in the “People’s Vision for Reform in Saudi Arabia,” written by Saudi activists, academics and intellectuals. 

Today, human rights and civil society norms are under threat across the world. As a prominent public official and representative to the G20, you have an obligation to ensure that G20 convenings are not used by host governments to obscure or hide their own repressive and environmentally destructive practices. 

Already, hundreds of elected officials worldwide have chosen to boycott the Saudi G20 because of the Saudi government’s terrible human rights record:

- European Parliament:  413 Members of the European Parliament have passed a resolution urging European Union leaders to downgrade their presence at the G20. 

- U.S. Congress:  45 Members of the U.S. Congress have called on outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to withdraw from the Saudi G20.

- U.K. Parliament:  Over 20 Members of the UK Parliament are calling on the UK government to “reconsider” its G20 participation due to Saudi Arabia’s “crackdown on non-violent activists and critics.”

- Mayors:  The Mayors of London, Paris, New York City, and Los Angeles have all boycotted the Saudi G20 “Urban 20” summit of mayors.

Before Saudi Arabia’s government can be considered an appropriate host for the G20 summit or other international events, the Saudi government must undertake the following comprehensive steps towards reform.

Ensure The Right To Political Participation: Saudi activists, academics and intellectuals have released a comprehensive “People’s Vision for Reform in Saudi Arabia,” which includes a clear demand for political participation. As stated in the People’s Vision, “The right to political participation and governance could take the form of the direct election of the head of the executive authority or by representatives elected freely by the people as part of a consultative council or parliament elected impartially and transparently, whose elections is overseen by civil organizations and independent international observers.”

Tell the Truth About the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi: Saudi Arabia has failed to provide any meaningful accountability for the murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by Saudi government agents in October 2018. A recent trial in Saudi Arabia regarding Khashoggi’s murder was described by Amnesty International as a whitewash. Saudi Arabia must accept an independent international criminal investigation into his murder.

Release Human Rights Advocates from Prison: Saudi Arabia must stop imprisoning, torturing, and killing advocates for human rights and political reform. The government must release Islamic scholar Salman Alodah, aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, human rights advocate Waleed Abu al-Khair, the imprisoned members of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), and all prisoners of conscience.

Free Women’s Rights Activists and Stop Violating Women’s Rights: Saudi Arabia must release imprisoned women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Naseema al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz, and Maya al-Zahrani, as well as imprisoned men who have advocated for women’s rights. Charges must also be dropped against all women’s rights advocates. Saudi Arabia should abolish the male guardianship system, as well as the laws that discriminate against women or give husbands absolute control over their lives. Saudi Arabia should reform its domestic violence law, including to make clear that marital rape is a crime.

Allow Independent Media and Journalists to Report Freely: Saudi Arabia permits no independent media and is one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists. The government regularly jails those who express critical thoughts on social media. The number of journalists and citizen-journalists in detention has tripled since the start of 2017, and 26 journalists were imprisoned by Saudi Arabia as of 2019.

Abolish the Sponsorship System of Modern-Day Slavery: Under Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship (kafala) system, foreign workers face significant risks of abuse and even conditions amounting to forced labor and modern-day slavery. This system also applies to foreign spouses, who have been trapped in Saudi Arabia against their will.

Embrace Religious Freedom: Foreigners comprise 30 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population, but Saudi Arabia does not allow public worship by non-Muslims. The Saudi government represses and discriminates against its Shia Muslim minority, and the government beheaded 37 individuals, the majority of whom were Shia, in a 2019 mass execution.

Stop Driving the Climate Crisis: State-owned Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions among corporate fossil fuel producers. Saudi Arabia also has an extensive record of undermining global climate negotiations. Saudi Arabia must end its climate obstruction and commit to a dramatic reduction in its fossil fuel exports.

Stop Intervening Against Democracy: Saudi Arabia has blocked democracy movements and advanced dictatorships across the Middle East and North Africa, including in Libya, Bahrain, Sudan, and Egypt.

End the Saudi-led War in Yemen: Saudi Arabia has bombed, blockaded, starved, and slaughtered thousands of Yemeni civilians in its war in Yemen. Yemen’s healthcare system is now decimated, giving rise to a lethal spread of the coronavirus pandemic across the Yemeni population. Saudi Arabia must end its war in Yemen.

As a leading public official and representative of your government, we urge you to demand dramatic changes to Saudi Arabia’s dismal record of human rights violations, repression, war, and environmental destruction.

Sincerely, 

Action Corps

Avaaz

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)

European Center for Democracy and Human Rights

Freedom Forward

The Freedom Initiative

Freedom Now

Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program

Just Foreign Policy

International Service for Human Rights

MENA Rights Group

Peace Action

Women’s March Global

Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation

Yemeni Alliance Committee

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