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Riyadh is tightening down on dissidents now that it no longer chairs the G20 group of top global markets, according to a new study by the human rights organization.
Saudi Arabia was accused by Amnesty International on Tuesday of initiating a “relentless crackdown” on critics in the kingdom following the end of the kingdom’s G20 leadership. Riyadh dominated the global forum for the world’s wealthiest countries for the entirety of last year, claiming to have abolished the death penalty for juveniles and outlawed public floggings.
Authorities “have blatantly accelerated the persecution of human rights defenders and dissidents and stepped up killings over the previous six months,” according to a new study by the London-based human rights organization. Saudi Arabia’s G20 chairmanship ended in December, and Amnesty International discovered that killings and special trials of human rights advocates had increased since then.
According to the study, at least 40 people have received the death punishment since the beginning of this year. Another rights group, the Saudi Human Rights Commission, reported 27 executions in 2020, an 85 percent decrease from the previous year. Researchers also discovered that the country’s Specialized Criminal Court has convicted at least 13 human rights campaigners (SCC). Amnesty calls the SCC “a counter-terror court notorious for due process violations including mass trials.”
“In many cases, defendants are held incommunicado in solitary confinement for months and denied access to lawyers,” it said.
“The brief pause in repression that coincided with Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the G20 meeting last November reveals that any pretense of reform was merely a public relations stunt,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“For a simple tweet in which he expressed disapproval of economic measures,” she noted, a humanitarian worker was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Saudi government has yet to respond to the Amnesty International report. After the gruesome murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, the kingdom’s human rights record came under increasing scrutiny.
Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto Saudi ruler, has pushed a reform campaign since becoming crown prince in 2017, spurred by the desire to diversify the Gulf country’s oil-reliant economy.
However, the prince has undertaken a broad crackdown on dissent and free speech at the same time. Human rights organizations and activists accuse the regional behemoth of breaching human rights and targeting dissidents, journalists, and women’s rights campaigners on a regular basis.
Story By: Norvisi Mawunyegah.