In 2018, Saudi agents entrapped, killed and dismembered the dissident Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, damaging Prince Mohammed’s reputation and leading to calls from activists to punish Saudi Arabia for that and other human rights violations.
Those activists seized on the kingdom’s presidency of the G-20 to campaign for their cause, lobbying members of the group to boycott the summit or use it as a platform to call for the release of detainees.
Last month, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz used his keynote address at a related event organized by Saudi Arabia to call for a moment of silence for Mr. Khashoggi and for a group of women who were detained after opposing and defying the kingdom’s former ban on women driving. The ban was lifted in 2018, but some of the women remain in detention.
“If this meeting does not come to terms with the violations of these human rights and those in other countries around the world, it cannot hope to achieve inclusive societies for which we all strive,” Mr. Stiglitz said in a video of the event, called the Think 20 summit, that was captured by activists but not published on the event’s website.
The mayors of Paris, Los Angeles, London and New York declined invitations to join G-20 events, and a number of rights groups organized an alternative, virtual summit this weekend to highlight the kingdom’s human rights record.
But the critics appear to have had a limited effect on the headline event, the leaders’ summit.
During a media briefing on Saturday, a reporter asked Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi investment minister, if negative headlines had deterred investors from embracing the kingdom.
The moderator tried to dismiss the journalist, but Mr. al-Falih answered anyway.
“Investors are not journalists,” he said. “Investors are looking for countries where they can place their trust in an effective government that has proper economic decision-making.”
Diplomats from a number of countries participating in the event said their nations regularly raised concerns about human rights directly with the Saudis but considered the summit too important to miss.