European Parliament urges EU to snub Saudi G20 summit over rights violations

The European Parliament passed a bill on Thursday condemning Saudi Arabia over human rights concerns and called on the European Union to boycott a G20 Leaders’ summit set to take place in Riyadh later this year.

The vote is the latest in a series of measures passed by the body rebuking Saudi Arabia for issues from its detention of Ethiopian migrants in appalling conditions to its leading role in the war in Yemen and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The resolution was put forward in order to “avoid legitimising impunity for human rights violations and ongoing illegal and arbitrary detentions in Saudi Arabia”.

The bill also calls on Saudi Arabia to accept and care for Yemeni refugees, end migrant deportations, allow investigations into human rights violations, abolish the Kafala system and declare a moratorium on death sentences.

The bill may mean that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel will not attend November’s virtual summit in Riyadh.

The EU, alongside three of its member states – Germany, France, and Italy – is a full member of the G20 and an economic power in the group.

Saudi Arabia is the first Arab nation to host the G20, a group of the world’s biggest economies that meets annually to discuss international financial stability.

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The kingdom had planned to use the summit next month to showcase the ambitious modernisation drive of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose international reputation has been tarnished by Khashoggi’s murder.

Still, the coronavirus pandemic forced the summit to go virtual, dashing Riyadh’s hopes of showing off its latest modernisation projects.

The call to diminish attendance at the summit comes amid a similar move by the mayors of major world cities, including New York, to forgo their attendance of a G20 virtual conference hosted by Riyadh.

The mayors of New York, Paris, Los Angeles and London have all declined to participate in the conference.

The human rights issues listed in Thursday’s parliament resolution included the “horrific plight” of Ethiopian migrants detained in Saudi prisons, the ongoing incarceration of dissident blogger Raif Badawi and women’s rights campaigners including Loujain al-Hathloul.

It also highlighted the “arbitrary” detention of multiple Saudi royal family members, including Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz and Princess Basmah bint Saud.

In a letter addressed to the Saudi crown prince, Belgian lawmaker Marc Tarabella appealed for the release of Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, who has been detained along with his ageing father since January 2018.

“lt is clear… that their current deprivation of liberty is arbitrary, and amounts to a violation of Saudi domestic and international obligations,” Tarabella wrote in the letter, seen by AFP, which was dated 29 September.

“As such, I urge you to immediately and unconditionally release Salman bin Abdulaziz Saud and (his father) Abdulaziz bin Salman.”

Tarabella, vice chairman of the parliament’s delegation for relations with the Arabian peninsula, has sent similar appeals to Saudi authorities in the past but received no response, the parliament source told said.

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