Cape Town - The world's top golfers should speak out about Saudi Arabia's "abysmal" human rights record, according to Amnesty International.
The second Saudi International has attracted a star-studded field despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey in October 2018, focusing further attention on the country's regime.
World No 1 Brooks Koepka, Open champion Shane Lowry, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia are among the field for the £2.7million event in King Abdullah Economic City, won by Johnson last year.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy turned down large appearance fees to compete at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, with McIlroy saying of his decision: "One hundred percent, there's a morality to it as well."
In a statement to the PA news agency, Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK's head of campaigns, said: "As with a whole host of other sports, the Saudi International is clearly another attempt by the Saudi Arabian authorities to try to 'sportswash' the country's heavily-tarnished image.
"It's yet another attempt to use the glamour and prestige of top-tier sport as a PR tool to distract from Saudi Arabia's abysmal human rights record.
"Under the Saudi Crown Prince, there's been a sweeping human rights crackdown - with numerous peaceful activists jailed, including Loujain al-Hathloul and other women's rights defenders.
"There's been a whitewash over Jamal Khashoggi's murder, there are continuing concerns over Saudi hacking, and the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen has a bloody record of launching indiscriminate attacks on homes, hospitals and market-places.
"We'd ask everyone involved in the Saudi International to properly familiarise themselves with the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about it."
The Ladies European Tour will also stage an event in Saudi Arabia in March, while the kingdom staged the world heavyweight fight between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr last year.
- TeamTalk Media