The global C20 civil society forum hosted this year by Saudi Arabia is a farcical attempt by the new G20 hosts to whitewash their dire human rights record, Amnesty International said.
The organization has released a joint statement, along with Transparency International and Civicus, explaining why it will not be engaging in this year’s C20 process, a cycle of preparatory meetings leading up to the annual G20 summit, which started yesterday with a three-day “kick-off meeting”.
“The C20 is supposed to provide a platform for civil society voices from around the world to influence the G20 agenda. Since Saudi Arabia has locked up most of its own independent activists, the only domestic organizations present will be aligned with the government – which makes a mockery of the whole process,” said Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International.
“The C20 in Riyadh is a sham. We cannot participate in a process which is being abused by a state which censors all free speech, criminalizes activism for women’s and minority rights, as well as homosexuality, and tortures and executes critics.”
Saudi Arabia took over the G20 presidency in December 2019. It has recently invested in expensive PR campaigns to improve its image, and hosted several high-profile sporting events which draw international visitors. But behind this carefully cultivated façade, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is as appalling as ever.
Saudi Arabia is responsible for the extrajudicial execution of the journalist and peaceful critic Jamal Khashoggi. More than a year after his murder in October 2018, there has been no justice or accountability for his death.
The country’s leading women’s rights activists remain behind bars and on trial for their promotion of women’s rights in the country. Scores of other individuals, including human rights defenders, have been serving lengthy prison terms for their peaceful activism or have been arbitrarily detained for up to a year and a half without charges. The Saudi Arabian authorities have also carried out executions following unfair trials and routine torture and other ill-treatment in custody.
The Saudi-led C20 process has already failed to guarantee the C20’s fundamental principles. The appointment of the Chairs of working groups and various committees was opaque and non-consultative, while arbitrary decisions have excluded experienced international groups. The C20 process is led by the King Khalid Foundation, which is connected to the Saudi Royal Family, and cannot be considered as transparent, inclusive and participatory. Since the Saudi authorities ban political parties, trade unions and independent human rights groups, there is no way the C20 meetings can be the free and open discussions they are designed to be.