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Amnesty Accuses Saudi Arabia of 'Publicity Drive' to Burnish Its Image

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud shakes hands with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a photo opportunity at the United Nations headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, March 27, 2018.

Amnesty International is accusing Saudi Arabia of using "an aggressive publicity drive" to rehabilitate the country's reputation the organization said has been tarnished by numerous human rights violations.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is in the midst of three-week cross-country tour of the United States, which began with a March 20 meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump. His trip is designed to strengthen U.S.-Saudi relations and secure American investment in the country.

Prince Mohammad's itinerary also includes meetings with business leaders, media organizations and members of Congress, some of whom have been critical of Saudi Arabia's intervention in the Yemeni Civil War, particularly regarding the humanitarian crisis and civilian casualties.

Some lawmakers called the war, which claimed the lives of about 10,000 people, a "humanitarian catastrophe," for which they believe the Saudis are responsible.

Amnesty also said the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia has "deteriorated markedly" since Mohammad bin Salman assumed the role of crown prince last summer. Saudi rulers have long drawn intense criticism from rights groups over the targeting of political dissidents and human rights groups.

Amnesty has launched an advertising campaign to encourage global observers "not to mistake public relations for human rights."

"The best PR machine in the world cannot gloss over Saudi Arabia's dismal human rights record," Amnesty Middle East Director Samah Hadid said Thursday in a statement. "The Crown Prince has been cast as a reformer but the crackdown against dissenting voices in his country has only intensified since his appointment last June."

Amnesty's awareness initiative features an advertising campaign that takes satirical jabs at Saudi Arabia.

"To improve its image, maybe #SaudiArabia should start by investing in human rights, not PR campaigns?," the human rights group posted on Twitter.