There is mounting pressure on world leaders to boycott the upcoming G20 Summit, which is to be held later this month in Saudi Arabia, over the kingdom’s detention and alleged “torture” of women activists.
The fate of female detainees has become a major source of concern amongst human rights groups and members of parliament alike, following a series of reports on their mistreatment by officials, many of whom are said to be close to Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman.
The latest in such reports was prepared by Baroness Helena Kennedy of the Shaws, QC. The human rights lawyer claimed that women’s rights activists were forced to kiss and perform sex acts on their interrogators, in a 40-page dossier which called on nations to boycott this weekend’s G20 summit.
In the report, A Stain on World Leaders and the G20 Summit in Saudi Arabia, Kennedy said that many of the women’s rights activists had been “subjected to treatment amounting to torture, including by individuals who are closely connected to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, such as Saud Al-Qahtani and Khalid Bin Salman.” Al Qahtani has been implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – though the Saudis have acquitted him – while Bin Salman is the younger brother of the crown prince who also serves as the country’s defence minister.
Kennedy’s report claims that women are forced to “perform sexual acts on the interrogators, and other forms of sexual harassment such as forcing them to watch pornography”. The Scottish barrister cited one source which reported that Aida Al-Ghamdi had been forced to watch pornography; and several other sources which reported that Loujain Al-Hathloul and Eman Al-Nafjan had been forced to kiss and perform other sexual acts on interrogators.
The report claimed that the interrogation of Al-Hathloul had been overseen by Al-Qahtani, a member of the crown prince’s inner circle. In echoes of the dismemberment of the dissident journalist, Khashoggi, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Al-Qahtani is said to have told one of the women: ‘I’ll do whatever I like to you, and then I’ll dissolve you and flush you down the toilet’.
Kennedy called on the UK government, along with the governments of all countries that uphold human rights’ standards, to “publicly condemn Saudi Arabia’s treatment of the Women’s Rights Activists and call for their immediate release. If Saudi Arabia should fail to do so, the UK government should give serious consideration to the use of targeted sanctions, including the suspension of diplomatic and economic ties, and holding those responsible to account and sanctioning them.”
Kennedy also urged world leaders and G20 states not to participate in the summit which begins this weekend unless the detainees are released. “Those allegedly responsible for these detentions and gross violations, as named in this report, should be held accountable and sanctions imposed on them including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khalid bin Salman and Saud Al-Qahtani,” said Kennedy.