On Tuesday, a group of academics and human rights and civil liberties organizations issued an open letter expressing concern that celebrities and business leaders did not publicly speak out about Saudi Arabia’s grave abuses in Yemen when they met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman on his trip to the United States in March and April.
The letter highlights what should be well known to Just Security readers: As leading Yemeni and international organizations, the United Nations, and journalists have extensively documented, Saudi Arabia is credibly implicated in “widespread violations” of international law, including war crimes, with thousands of civilians killed and injured in its US-supported air campaign. Saudi Arabia has also exacerbated the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world” by imposing restrictions on humanitarian access to Yemen.
The Crown Prince traveled to the US to paint a picture of positive reform by citing his lifting of the Saudi ban on women drivers, a hollow message further exposed as such with recent news that his government is cracking down on women activists in Saudi Arabia. The letter highlights how the business leaders and celebrities allowed themselves “to be instrumentalized in a public relations effort to whitewash Saudi Arabia’s abuses” by meeting with the Crown Prince but failing to raise widely documented concerns about Saudi wrongdoing in Yemen.
The academics and NGOs appeal to the business leaders and celebrities to use their “national and global influence… to exercise moral leadership and to help advance the rights of Yemeni civilians by delivering a message that credible allegations of Saudi Arabia’s serious abuses in Yemen will not be ignored.” The letter ends with a call on the addressees “to publicly express concern for the actions of Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and to call on Saudi Arabia to respect international law and to work towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”
The full text of the letter is available here.