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Rights groups urge mayors of world capitals to boycott Saudi summit

The summit, a part of the G20, will take place on the second anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi's killing
The coalition's letter calls on Saudi Arabia to take immediate measures to end human rights violations (AFP)

A global coalition of human rights groups is calling on mayors of some of the world's biggest cities to boycott a G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh's Urban 20 (U20) summit is being held as part of the kingdom's chairmanship of this year's G20. Among those invited are London mayor Sadiq Khan, Berlin mayor Michael Muller, New York's Bill de Blasio, and Paris's Anne Hidalgo, as well as the mayors of Los Angeles and Madrid.

The U20 is being held on the second anniversary of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Istanbul Saudi consulate in October 2018.

The coalition said that Saudi Arabia, "as an absolute monarchy without any form of meaningful democratic representation, has a long record of silencing the very voices that are necessary for a meaningful global conversation".

"Saudi Arabia's brutal record has only intensified since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince in 2017," the letter read.

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The coalition also calls on the kingdom to take immediate measures to end human rights violations, including pursuing real justice in the case of Khashoggi and releasing jailed activists.

Riyadh recently overturned five death sentences previously issued against the killers of Khashoggi in a final ruling that jailed eight defendants to between seven and 20 years.

None of the defendants were named and the final court ruling sparked an international outcry, with UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard and Khashoggi's fiancee condemning the ruling.

"Human rights and civil society norms are under threat across the world," the letter read.

"G20 delegations have an obligation to ensure that G20 meetings are not used by host governments to obscure or hide their own repressive and environmentally destructive practices," it said.

Amongst the parties invited to the summit, Paris's Hidaldo approved giving honorary citizenship to Louijan al-Hathloul, a women's rights activist currently jailed in Saudi Arabia; New York's De Blasio described the Saudi war in Yemen as brutal and immoral; and London's Khan called for arms fairs in his city to stop.

Signatories to the letter include Action Corps, CodePink, Freedom Forward, the Geneva-based MENA Rights Group, Just Foreign Policy and the London-based ALQST.

The U20, first established in 2017, is an annual mayoral summit that is officially part of the G20. This year the summit will begin in Riyadh on 30 September and last three days.