London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has reversed the decision to attend the world mayors summit in Saudi Arabia, citing the kingdom's poor human rights record as his excuse.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, joins the mayors of New York, Los Angeles and Paris to boycott the G20 summit event, Urban 20, that began in Saudi Arabia on September 20 and will last until October 2.
The Urban 20 (U20) virtual summit coincides with the second anniversary of the murder of Saudi dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
A global coalition of human rights groups and peace organisations urged mayors of the world’s major cities not to attend the event.
According to Middle East Eye, a member of the Greater London Authority (GLA) will attend the summit in Khan’s place.
It is the Kingdom's increasing brutality toward dissidents, including Khashoggi's murder, that has kept the other leaders away.
However, a spokesperson for London’s City Hall, the mayoral headquarters, said, “It has never been the mayor's intention to attend this U20 summit and his invite has previously been formally declined. No one is representing him at the summit or speaking on behalf of London.”
“The normal practice is for an official of the GLA to observe such multilateral events as the U20, which cover the most pressing issues of our time, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate emergency - neither of which can be tackled without international cooperation.”
“However, to avoid any implication that this observer status means support for the Saudi government, the GLA, exceptionally, will not dial in to view any of the U20 summit sessions this year.”
The human rights coalition stated that Saudi Arabia is an unfit and inappropriate host for the event due to it being “an absolute monarchy without any form of meaningful democratic representation.”
“The Saudi government has a long record of silencing the very voices that are necessary for a meaningful global conversation regarding the massive challenges we collectively face,” read the statement.
Since Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, became crown prince in 2017, the brutality has only intensified in the kingdom.
In the letter, the group urges mayors “to publicly demand that the Saudi government take clear and immediate steps towards ending its record of human rights violations, reckless foreign policy, and environmental destruction.”
The death penalty of Saudi killers of Khashoggi dropped
A Saudi court overturned five death sentences over journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder in a final ruling that has jailed eight defendants to between seven and 20 years, according to state media.
"Five of the convicts were given 20 years in prison and another three were jailed for 7 to 10 years," said the official Saudi Press Agency, citing a spokesman for the public prosecutor.
None of the defendants were named in what was described as the final court ruling on the killing, which sparked international outcry.
A senior UN official described a Saudi trial that handed out prison sentences to eight unnamed men over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as a ‘parody’.
Khashoggi – a royal family insider turned critic – was said to be killed and dismembered at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, in a case that tarnished the reputation of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Washington Post columnist and critic of the crown prince, was strangled and his body cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi squad inside the consulate, according to Turkish officials. His remains have never been found.