Further executions in Saudi Arabia during PM “gladhanding visit”


Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today challenged the Foreign Secretary to stand up for human rights in Saudi Arabia, after it emerged that three more executions were held in the Gulf country even while the Prime Minister visited to meet with the Crown Prince. Mr Carmichael warned earlier in the week that visiting Saudi Arabia just days after 81 prisoners were killed in a mass execution sent a “terrible message” about the UK’s interest in human rights, concerns that appear to have been vindicated by the latest killings.

Speaking in the House while welcoming today’s news of the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from detention in Iran, Mr Carmichael said:

“I welcome the words of the Foreign Secretary with regard to arbitrary detention. Of course, arbitrary detention is not the sole preserve of Iran. It is also the common practice in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where it is reported that there were a further three executions today while the Prime Minister was in the country.

“Can the Foreign Secretary give me some assurance that we shall pursue the issue of arbitrary detention and other human rights issues with equal vigour wherever we find them?”

Responding, the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss MP said:

“We approach our relations with all countries without fear or favour. We are prepared to be honest with other countries about human rights practices. That is exactly what the Prime Minister has been doing on his visit. But it is important that we do engage Saudi Arabia. We have a major issue with a very aggressive Russia that has threatened European and indeed global security and we need to work with other countries to find alternative sources of oil and gas, and it is important that we deal with everybody.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“If we were to approach all aggressive and abusive states ‘without fear or favour’ then the Prime Minister would not currently be on a gladhanding jaunt around Saudi Arabia. That the Saudi regime felt emboldened enough to carry on its spate of executions even as Boris Johnson made his visit tells you all you need to know about the message being sent to the Crown Prince who has committed human rights abuses at home and abroad.

“The Foreign Secretary can hardly be ignorant of these facts as it was on her watch as International Trade Secretary that the courts ruled that the government had unlawfully issued arms licenses to fuel Saudi Arabia’s own war of aggression in Yemen. It was on her watch that the flow of arms to Saudi Arabia resumed in spite of an ongoing flood of human rights abuses in that conflict and within the kingdom itself.

“In responding to the current energy crisis, we cannot afford to jump out of the Russian frying pan to get into the Saudi fire.”


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