Saudi Arabia aims to improve human rights record amid twin coronavirus, oil crises

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A beleaguered Saudi Arabia is taking modest steps to improve its human rights record as it tries to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and the fallout from plunging oil prices that have rankled the United States and the Trump administration.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the force behind Saudi Arabia’s sweeping changes and risky gambles, is eyeing further steps he hopes will improve the kingdom’s international image, which was badly damaged by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by government agents in 2018 and the war in Yemen.

In the past week alone, the kingdom announced two changes to the law: banning flogging as a punishment and doing away with the death penalty for crimes committed by minors.

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People familiar with the crown prince’s plans say future steps are likely to be announced within weeks and months and will involve penal reform so that punishments meted out for specific crimes are no longer the sole purview of judges.

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Still, it may not be enough to win Riyadh fresh support in Washington or praise from human rights groups.

The crown prince, while transforming life inside Saudi Arabia,

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