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It’s Time Our Government Stopped Pulling Their Punches Over Saudi Arabia… writes Tom Brake

by Steve Beasant on 11 January, 2016

The following article was written by the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington Tom Brake and published today on the Huffington Post Website.

The executions in Saudi Arabia of 47 people have shocked and appalled many people.

Most alarming was the execution of Shia religious leader Nimr al-Nimr which has led to large protests and Saudi Arabia and Iran cutting diplomatic ties. It is incredibly concerning that two of the most influential nations in the Middle East, which are of critical importance in any peace process to bring stability to the region, have cut diplomatic links as a result of this execution.

Capital punishment is an outdated and immoral form of justice and I am proud that this practice was abolished many years ago in the United Kingdom. It is important that we see a decrease in this practice throughout the world. This makes the events in Saudi Arabia even more disappointing.

The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly called on the Government to implement tighter controls on arms sales to countries with poor human rights records, and I have previously raised the issue with the Government that British weapons might have been used by the Saudi Arabian military to commit human rights abuses in Yemen.

I have written this week to the Government to ask for assurances that no weapons or any other materials made in the United Kingdom were used to prepare or carry out the executions.

The executions which we witnessed at the weekend, with some people being executed after they were arrested for instigating political protests, including Nimr al-Nimr, constitute a breach of the most basic human rights’ laws. It is deeply disturbing that a country which executes peaceful protestors & advocates the subjugation of women is the chair of the UN Human Rights Council.

I have called on the Government to lobby to get Saudi Arabia to stand down from that chairmanship however shockingly I was told that the Government would not.

Fundamental questions need to be asked about the UK Government’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and calling the execution of 47 prisoners, some who were political prisoners only ‘disappointing’ is an embarrassing stance from the Government, a Government that is far too close to a regime with serious human rights abuses.

As Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats said, “Clearly, Saudi Arabia has a great influence over this Government. Will this Government now prove that they have some influence over Saudi Arabia?”

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