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The 2020 G-20 Summit in Riyadh: Hypocrisy at its Best!


Saudi Arabia, despite its flagrant human rights abuses and war crimes in Yemen, has assumed this year’s G20 presidency, and recently hosted the virtual G20 summit in Riyadh.

Founded in 1999, the G20 is an international organization forum for governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union. Member states address and work toward resolving policy pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.

This year’s virtual summit brought together leaders from the world's richest and most developed economies, such as the United States, China, India, Turkey, France, the UK and Brazil, among others. Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, this year’s G20 Summit format changed from an in-person two-day meeting of the world's most powerful leaders to a virtual gathering of speeches and declarations.

Most Summit reporting coming from Riyadh was overshadowed by efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and global economic crisis it has caused. This negated the families of Saudi “prisoners of conscience” appeals to world leaders to address their human rights concerns during the summit. Sadly, their efforts were ignored! "All our relatives are in danger," said Arij Al-Sedhan, the sister of Abdul Rahman al-Sedhan, who was detained in Saudi Arabia in March 2018. These prisoners of conscience face the same dangers that Jamal Khashoggi experienced on a daily basis. The world knows how Jamal Khashoggi’s life ended—without justice to this day; yet, Saudi Arabia has not been held accountable. What it demonstrates is the hypocrisy of the West – including the U.S.–when it comes to condoning Saudi Arabia’s violations of international law.

However, US intelligence, including the CIA, concluded the impulsive Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) ordered the brutal murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. That gruesome and inhumane act will continue to be the most damaging to Saudi Arabia’s image and reputation.

Similarly, one of the most prominent Saudis prisoner is the 31-year-old female Jane Al-Hadhloul, a key figure who played a major role in the campaign to allow Saudi women to drive.

Equally important, the G20 Summit ignored to address the atrocities the Saudi Government continue to commit in Yemen. I remind the reader that even the current U.S. administration has failed miserably to raise these concerns regarding both the unjust detention of Saudi prisoners of conscience and the ongoing crimes Saudi Arabia continues to commit in Yemen.

Speaking of Yemen, I draw your attention to one particular issue: the continued U.S. support in intelligence and weapons/ammunition sales for the Saudi-Emirati campaign of destruction against Yemeni civilians. It raises questions about America’s moral standing in the world. As an American, I am ashamed of what has become of the United States that once was cherished, respected and admired by so many around the world.

As argued in my book, “Beneath the Veil: Fall of the House of Saud,” the ongoing conflict is proving to be a humanitarian disaster on so many levels: famine at unprecedented levels, deaths of civilians, destruction of hospitals and a blockade that demonstrate the worst that human beings can do to one another, let alone a Muslim to a fellow Muslim. Saudi Arabia’s decisions epitomize hypocrisy and the ugliness of human nature. Yet history has come full circle: Yemen has become to Saudi Arabia what Vietnam was to the United States. By now, no one benefits except for those manufacturing military arsenal.

Let us be honest: The G20 summit was nothing but a smokescreen, a show, a facade of sort. The Summit exposed the failure and hypocrisy of its members, the failure of its tenants, and the waning of its credibility. All the statements and declarations posted at the G20 Summit remain nothing but ink. Most will agree that it is action and deeds, not slogans and empty promises that measure a country’s or an organization’s moral standing and values on the world stage.

The bottom line: The West, including the United States, has already lost its unique attraction as a global power; a system that ensures human rights are protected no matter what; and that freedom of expression is the hallmark of what democracy is all about. On the other hand, we are all witnessing the political, and soon social, chaos in America, demonstrations in France following the draft law that would infringe on journalists’ freedom to report, to name but a few.

The question is: What has the G20 summit achieved? The answer is, as usual, very little.