Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood (Image CFI)
A UK Government minister was this evening repeatedly asked by Members of Parliament to condemn the execution of protesters last weekend in Saudi Arabia, and to publish secret agreements signed between the UK and Saudi governments, but refused to do either.
Foreign Office (FCO) minister Tobias Ellwood was taking questions from MPs on British relations with the Kingdom in the wake of last weekend’s mass execution of 47 people, including at least four sentenced to death over their involvement in protests calling for reform in 2012.
Hilary Benn, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron both asked Mr Ellwood whether the Government would publish Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between the UK’s Home Office (HO) and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and their Saudi counterparts, concerning cooperation in their respective areas. However, Mr Ellwood failed to answer to either of their questions.
While Mr Ellwood expressed “concern” over the executions, he also refused requests from several MPs – including Mr Farron and the Greens’ Caroline Lucas – to condemn them.
MPs – including the Conservatives’ Mike Wood and the SNP’s Margaret Ferrier – raised specific concerns over the cases of three juveniles sentenced to death as children over their involvement in protests: Ali al Nimr, Dawoud al Marhoon, and Abdullah al Zaher – who continue to be at risk of execution at any time. Mr Ellwood responded that the UK had raised their cases with the Saudi authorities and did not expect them to be executed.
Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “The UK Government’s continuing secrecy over its dealings with Saudi Arabia is unacceptable. If the Home Office or Ministry of Justice are using public resources to support a state which is carrying out appalling human rights abuses, the British public deserves to know. It is also disturbing that the Government is continuing to refuse to condemn the execution by the Saudi Government of protesters calling for political reform. The Minister claims that ‘foghorn diplomacy’ doesn’t work, but given the bloodbath last weekend it is hard to see how the UK’s softly-softly approach is doing any good.”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.