As the Ritz-Carlton reopens after Riyadh used it to detain and probe elite Saudis in an antigraft campaign, questions linger over the rule of law
After being summoned by an aide to King Salman on Nov. 4, a prominent Saudi showed up at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh expecting a royal audience. Instead, armed men took his mobile phone and escorted him to a hotel room. “I was told I would be staying here for some time,” the man recalled recently. Over the next 99 days, the Saudi government would close the Ritz-Carlton as a hotel and detain 381 people there in an unprecedented anticorruption campaign against its most elite citizens. The Ritz-Carlton reopened on Sunday as a hotel, marking the end of a phase of the crackdown and the beginning of an uncertain new era for the world’s largest oil exporter. The first guests arrived to find little had changed, with the lobby still featuring the same intricately patterned marble-inlay floors and four giant statues of rearing stallions. The hotel now symbolises the ways in which Saudi Arabia still stands apart from the outside world, as its leadership attempts a historic reordering of society with new freedoms for women, a more moderate brand of Islam and a market-oriented economy less tethered to oil. By targeting Saudi businessmen with deep ties to the West and seizing their assets without publicly detailing any charges beyond unspecified corruption, the purge has raised concerns about the rule of law.