Saudi Prince’s rise saw reforms, but repressions’ too deepened

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pursued landmark reforms since coming to power, but his rise has been accompanied by “deepening repression and abusive practices”, Human Rights said Monday.

Despite a perceon that the outcry over the October 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi had left the Saudis chastened, critics of the kingdom are still being vigorously pursued with measures such as arbitrary travel bans and harassment of their families, it said.

“Detaining citizens for peaceful criticism of the government’s policies or human rights advocacy is not a new phenomenon in Saudi Arabia,” the New York-based group said in a report.

“But what has made the post-2017 arrest waves notable and different, however, is the sheer number and range of individuals targeted over a short period of time as well as the introduction of new repressive practices.”

Since becoming de facto ruler two years ago, Prince Mohammed has been on a modernisation drive with reforms, including allowing women to drive, receive passports and travel abroad without permission from male relatives.

However, HRW said those moves were a smokescreen for the ongoing detention of dozens of dissidents, some allegedly tortured in custody, and a lack of accountability for those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.

“Important social reforms enacted under Prince Mohammed have been accompanied by deepening repression and abusive practices meant to silence dissidents and critics,” it said.

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