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World Trade Organisation urged to reject Saudi candidate for senior role

August 19, 2020 at 3:20 pm

Flag of Saudi Arabia [Ahmet Bolat/Anadolu Agency]

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is under pressure to reject Saudi Arabia’s nominee for the post of director general with the role becoming vacant by the end of this month. Eight candidates have been shortlisted for the role including Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri.

Some 18 pro-democracy and human rights groups, however, have written to the WTO urging the organisation to reject Riyadh’s candidate citing the kingdom’s human rights abuse and Al-Tuwaijri’s complicity and silence over its brutal repression.

“Al-Tuwaijri has long been complicit in the Saudi government’s human rights violations and has chosen to remain silent on his government’s brutal record of repression,” said the letter, urging WTO members to reject Riyadh’s candidate.

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For three years, between November of 2017 until March of 2020 Al-Tuwaijri served as minister for Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman; a position which the letter claims would have made him complicit in some of the worst “crackdowns against human rights defenders and peaceful dissidents in the country’s recent history.” Currently Al-Tuwaijri serves as the advisor to the Saudi monarchy’s Royal Court.

The letter cited the Saudi state’s crackdown including the arbitrary detention of businessmen and economists in the Ritz Carlton Hotel three years ago, the detention and torture of several prominent women’s rights defenders and civil society members, and the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

DAWN (Democracy for the Arab World Now), a group which Khashoggi helped form prior to his killing, are amongst the signatories of the letter that include a number of prominent pro-democracy and human rights organisations.

The letter warned that the appointment of Al-Tuwaijri would undermine WTO’s effort in creating global economic stability. “The Saudi government has a long record of abusing international and diplomatic privileges to break the law and compromise the security of citizens and the global community,” the letter argued. “The Saudi government continues to destabilize regional economies, oppose democratic movements, and commit atrocities in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.”