Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs, Alistair Carmichael, has denounced the government’s decision to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Speaking in an urgent debate on the issue Mr Carmichael highlighted ongoing human rights abuses within the country and recent evidence of rule-breaking in international trade. The government reopened arms sales to the Saudi regime last week after declaring that human rights violations in its conflict in Yemen, including indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, were not part of a “pattern” of abuse.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“The government of Saudi Arabia is, as is well documented, indiscriminate in their use of the death penalty including against minors. In recent years they have detained without trial members of their own royal family. Just recently they were found through the World Trade Organisation to be responsible for sport piracy through the beoutQ company. What is it that makes the minister think that this is a government that is going to have any regard for the rule of international law, and does he not agree that our new policy in relation to China would be seen in a much better light if we were seen to hold Saudi Arabia to the same standards?”
Responding for the Government, Greg Hands MP said:
“I’m not going to comment on China but at all times, the UK in its foreign policy campaigns actively for the abolition of the death penalty. He and I know that, he served the government not so long ago and he will know that that is an important pillar of our foreign policy.
“However that does not prevent us from having an overall relationship, where it is overall in the national interest to have as a good a relationship with as many countries in the world as we reasonably can. In terms of the WTO complaint I will look into that and I will write to him.”
Reacting after the exchange Mr Carmichael said:
“I am glad that the minister will look into the piracy issue further. This, however, is only the latest in a series of actions by Saudi Arabia that suggest a complete lack of regard for international law and human rights.
“From the state-ordered murder of Jamal Khashoggi on foreign soil to the continued abuse of basic human rights domestically, it is indisputable that Saudi Arabia is a systemic abuser of human rights. It is unconscionable that the government is now reopening a pipeline of weaponry to the regime. If we are to voice support for human rights globally with any credibility, the government must change course and stop arming the Saudi regime.”