The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is dire and the UK government has repeatedly failed to say or do anything about it.

Bethan McKernan

THE UK government has been praised for scrapping a contract to run services in the Saudi Arabian prison service.

There had been widespread criticism of the £5.9m deal because of Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record and excessively cruel penal system.

In the past few months, Saudi Arabia has sentenced blogger Raif Badawi to ten years in prison and 500 lashes, and Arab Spring protester Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was a teen when he was arrested, to be beheaded and crucified.

While the UK has moved to distance itself from Saudi Arabia’s horrific treatment of its people in one regard, the government hasn’t been so keen to shout about our other dealings with the oppressive kingdom.

Between May 2010 – March 2015, the coalition government licensed almost £4billion of arms to Saudi Arabia, and according to a Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls report from earlier this year, the equipment included:

  • fighter jets
  • machine guns, sniper rifles and pistols
  • crowd control ammunition
  • intelligence and cryptography equipment
  • hand grenades
  • tear gas

…and many, many more items.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) says this equipment is being used to kill civilians as Saudi Arabia becomes increasingly involved in the conflict in Yemen.

Andrew Smith, a spokeperson for CAAT, said in a statement:

The Saudi authorities are lashing and executing opponents, locking up bloggers and bombing civilians in Yemen. The human rights situation is dire and the UK government has repeatedly failed to say or do anything about it.

There must be an immediate embargo on all arms sales to the regime, and an end to the uncritical political support they are given. How many more people will be tortured and killed before the UK government finally says enough is enough?

Last month London hosted the Defence & Security Equipment International arms fair, to which the Saudi military were invited – so presumably we’ll be lining our pockets with Saudi money again soon.

David Cameron squirms over squalid deal with Saudi Arabia

In an excruciating interview with Channel 4 journalist Jon Snow the day before his conference speech, Cameron struggled to defend a “squalid” deal it was recently revealed that the UK government struck with Saudi Arabia.

It emerged that the two nations agreed to vote for each other to secure seats on the UN Human Rights Council session between 2013 – 2016.

Saudi Arabia has one of the worst human rights records of any modern country, and is currently attempting to execute a man for the role he played in Arab Spring protests when he was a teenager.

The PM said he would personally attempt to raise the case of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, but only if there was an “opportunity” with Saudi authorities.

Cameron had no better answer for why the deal was struck than because the British government has “a relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s message to David Cameron

Speaking at the Labour conference after he had been elected party leader, Jeremy Corbyn raised the issue of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr:

I’ve been standing up for human rights and challenging oppressive regimes for 30 years as a backbench MP, and before that as an individual activist, just like everyone else in this hall.

Just because I’ve become the leader of this party I’m not going to stop standing up on those issues or being that activist.

So my first message is to David Cameron. I hope he’s listening: Intervene now personally with the Saudi Arabian regime to stop the beheading and crucifixion of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who is threatened with the death penalty for taking part in a demonstration at the age of 17.

Source: The Independent

14 Oct 2015

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