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Amnesty warns business leaders of 'dirty deals' at Saudi B20 summit

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in rebranding its reputation [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 October, 2020

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Amnesty International has urged business leaders attending the Saudi-hosted B20 summit to consider the kingdom's record on women's rights.
Amnesty International has warned business leaders going to Saudi Arabia next week to avoid doing "dirty deals" at the "B20 summit", which the rights group slammed as a "sham" amid the kingdom's continued detention of women's rights activists.

The human rights watchdog issued a statement on Friday urging businesses who will attend the event to remember those still languishing in Saudi jails.

The B20 is the official forum for business leaders to present policy recommendations ahead of the G20 summit in November.

Riyadh has touted this year's event as one focussing on "women in Business".

"Since assuming the G20 Presidency Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in rebranding its image, throwing out slogans about women's equality and insisting it is ready for change. But Saudi Arabia’s real changemakers are behind bars," said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"B20 leaders must not be fooled by this shameless hypocrisy, and we call on them to show they care about human rights as much as business opportunities. Any business operating in or with Saudi Arabia has a responsibility to ensure they are not contributing to human rights violations through their activities."

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in rebranding its image, alongside liberal social reforms that have been introduced. At the same time, the kingdom has cracked down on dissent and arrested activists who have fought for freedoms.

Among those detained were Loujain al Hathloul, Nassima al-Sada, Samar Badawi, Maya’a al-Zahrani, and Nouf Abdulaziz, all of whom pushed for women's rights - including ending male guardianship and the right to drive.

At present, 13 female activists are on trial in Saudi Arabia, facing charges including "promoting women’s rights" and "calling for the end of the male guardianship system". Of the 

Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani remain in detention.

Amnesty International has urged businesses attending the B20 summit to "think carefully about how their brands could be legitimizing human rights violations and endorsing Saudi Arabia's charm offensive".

"If B20 Saudi Arabia was as progressive as it claims, the activists who did so much to secure more rights for women would have a seat at the table," Maalouf said.

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