Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has called out the government in Parliament for failing to take meaningful action in response to the mass execution of 81 prisoners in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, the largest execution in Saudi Arabia’s history. The mass execution comes in a week when the Prime Minister reportedly plans to travel to Riyadh to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Mr Carmichael highlighted the government’s plans to cut off Russian oil and gas imports in response to the invasion of Ukraine, and warned against swapping “one human rights abuser for another”.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“The Minister may be shocked, but she should not be surprised, because this sort of thing has happened before. Actions speak louder than words. If the Prime Minister goes to Saudi Arabia in the next few days, we would be sending a very clear signal that, no matter what we say, we are not really bothered about this sort of thing.
“It has been reported that we have a judicial co-operation memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia. Will the Minister commit to publishing it, along with the related human rights risk assessment made by the Government?
Amanda Milling MP, Minister for Asia and the Middle East said:
“The key point is that, given our relationship with Saudi Arabia, we are able to have frank conversations about human rights. We are opposed to the death penalty in all countries under all circumstances. As I said, Saudi Arabia remains the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s human rights priority country, particularly because of its use of the death penalty.”
Reacting after the exchange Mr Carmichael said:
“The mass executions seen over the weekend are a shocking reminder that for all Saudi Arabia’s claims to be reforming its justice system, repressive practices remain the norm. If, as has been reported, the Prime Minister is planning to visit the kingdom and meet with the Crown Prince this week, it would send a terrible message about our commitment to basic human rights.
“There has been much talk in the UK and across Europe about the need to move away from Russian energy sources as Putin’s regime attacks Ukraine. We will do ourselves no favours, however, if in sourcing our energy we simply trade one human rights abuser for another. “Frank conversations”, as the minister put it, are clearly no match for meaningful changes in policy.”