MBS comes to Paris: the price of compromise

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Xose Bouzas / Hans Lucas / Hans Lucas via AFP

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is on a ten-day official visit to France to attend the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, organised by Emmanuel Macron on June 22 and 23. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH) are dismayed that the red carpet has once again been rolled out for this dictator.

Paris, 19 June 2023. France is adopting an increasingly zealous role in rehabilitating a bloodthirsty dictator. President Emmanuel Macron was the first Western leader to visit Riyadh after it was demonstrated that the Saudi leader was responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was massacred and butchered with a chainsaw. This atrocious crime did not prevent Mr. Macron from receiving MBS at the Élysée Palace in July 2022.

Behind a façade of modernity and social tolerance, Saudi Arabia has been cracking down harder than ever on all forms of criticism. Human rights defenders, opponents and activists face the daily threat of imprisonment, torture and enforced disappearance. According to a report published by the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR), the number of executions has doubled since Prince bin Salman became de facto leader in 2015, and, in spite of government promises, the execution of minors has not been suspended. The government has also violently repressed Bedouins for their opposition to the futuristic Neom city project, which is intended to showcase the Saudi Arabia of tomorrow, according to the Prince. Furthermore, feminist activists such as Manahel Al-Otaibi and Salma Al-Shehab are still detained. Their crime? Exercising their rights.

Against the backdrop of war in Ukraine, it is tempting to forget Saudi Arabia’s crimes in order to have its diplomatic weight behind support for Ukraine. This would be tantamount to capitulation. Given the energy crisis, the desire to have the world’s third-largest oil producer onside is understandable. But how can a few barrels of oil be weighed against the dignity of millions of human beings?

In their speeches, France, Europe and the major institutions speak up loudly against international crimes whilst extending an invitation to a war criminal, the murderer of a journalist. They ignore his responsibility for the war crimes committed in Yemen by the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Yemeni people have been waiting for over a decade for the perpetrators of these atrocities to be brought to justice. This whitewashing reinforces impunity and strengthens dictatorships.

FIDH and LDH point out that, since all human lives are equal, there can be no hierarchy among victims.

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