Saudi Arabia’s top human rights lawyer said Friday that he will launch legal action against the United Arab Emirates, the United States and other countries for not enforcing visa requirements for its citizens who visit the kingdom.
“I will take legal action to stop them from failing to ensure that they are following international law,” Ali al-Naimi told Al Jazeera.
Saudi Arabia is the top destination for the vast majority of foreigners entering the kingdom, which has a large Muslim population.
The kingdom is also home to some of the world’s most secretive regimes, including the Al Saud dynasty, which the United Nations says is the world “most repressive regime” and is responsible for hundreds of human rights abuses.
Naimis move comes as Riyadh has been trying to boost its economy after the oil-rich Gulf kingdom’s collapse from civil war in 2015.
He is a close ally of the ruling dynasty, and his appointment could help him push through reforms that the kingdom says will allow the economy to grow and improve the lives of its people.
“The kingdom has made enormous strides and has taken steps to make itself more transparent, more inclusive and more transparently run,” Naimi said.
“The international community is watching with interest.
The kingdom is trying to bring in the best reforms to make the economy more transparent and more inclusive.”
Naimiyi is a frequent critic of Saudi Arabia, which he describes as a country that “treats women with contempt” and a “cancerous cancer”.
He also accuses the ruling family of stifling dissent and encouraging religious extremism.
The U.N. says Saudi Arabia and its allies “continue to commit crimes against humanity, including for murder, torture, sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and arbitrary detentions”.
Naimyias comments come as Saudi Arabia is also considering tightening the rules for tourists to visit the country, including allowing them to carry small cameras or cell phones.
Saudi officials have previously said that it will restrict photography to areas that are already secure, or that it would ban the use of cameras at all.
Najaf al-Ghanem, a human rights activist, said he hoped that Naimyis announcement could be a start in getting his country’s tourism industry back on track.
“We have been trying hard to change the rules, but we are not there yet,” Ghanem told Al-Jazeera.
“This is a first step in the right direction.”
Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector has been suffering since the civil war, which led to the ouster of King Salman last year.
It has seen a sharp fall in foreign tourists and has struggled to lure more international businesses.
“It is a very important step in Saudi Arabia to give tourists the confidence they need to go and spend money,” said Hisham al-Alami, director of the Center for International Governance at the University of Maryland.
“But the real challenge will come in the coming years when the kingdom is looking to modernize and diversify its economy and attract more foreign investment.”
That is what Saudi Arabia needs to do.
“Nafeez Ahmed is a senior writer for Al Jazeera English.
He tweets @NafezAhmed.