UK politicians unite to urge intervention in Saudi executions

#HumanRights

Cross-party group asks government to intervene and for assurances that British-taught skills have not been used to convict the group

Munir al-Adam, one of 14 Saudis facing execution (screengrab)
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Friday 21 July 2017 14:33 UTC
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A group of senior MPs have urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to intervene in the cases of 14 young men who face imminent execution in Saudi Arabia under protest-related offences.

Included among the 14 men sentenced are two people who were minors at the time they were alleged to have attended the protests, and a disabled man.

In a letter to May, Ed Miliband, former Labour Party leader, Andrew Mitchell, former Conservative cabinet minister, and Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat spokesperson, raised concerns that UK police training given to Saudi security forces could have led directly to the charges.

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The three MPs said that they were "gravely concerned" that that British police’s training of Saudi agents in cyber forensics may have enabled the arrests.

The letter calls on May to "personally urge Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Bin Salman to halt the 14 upcoming executions".

The 14 men were transferred from al-Mbahith prison in Dammam to Riyadh, often seen as an initial step leading towards execution in Saudi Arabia.

They include Munir al-Adam, a disabled man sentenced to death for attending a protest.

The sweeping anti-cybercrime law that they have been charged under includes producing material that impinges on "public order", "religious values" and "public morals".

A report by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2015 noted the law "has been used to convict social activists".

Saudis trained in cybersecurity by UK

Last April, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) revealed documents that showed the Saudis had been trained in all aspects of cybersecurity.

When reviewing this training, the UK College of Policing accepted there was a risk that skills being taught could be used against those "who later go on to be tortured or subject to other human rights abuses".

But it noted that if the UK refused to provide training then the UK’s partnership and trade with Saudi Arabia could be put at risk.

"If the UK has trained Saudi agents in gathering the kind of evidence which is being used to hand down death sentences, it would call into question the viability of UK training for Saudi Arabian criminal justice bodies," the letter from the MPs to May stated.

Earlier this week, Brake raised the matter regarding the 14 men in parliament and called for the UK to condemn the use of the death penalty.

In response, minister of state for the Foreign Office, Alistair Burt, said the government only had "sketchy" reports but was seeking further clarity.

'By not speaking out against these abuses, the prime minister is condoning the beheadings'

- Maya Foa, Reprieve 

"The UK government opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country including Saudi Arabia, especially for crimes other than the most serious and for juveniles," said Burt.

Maya Foa, director of human rights charity Reprieve warned of the consequences of the UK government’s silence.

"There are serious concerns that the UK government was complicit in their arrest and convictions based on false confessions obtained through torture," she said.

"By not speaking out against these abuses, the prime minister is condoning the beheadings and putting the UK’s reputation as a defender of human rights at serious risk. Instead of giving British assistance to the Saudi executioners, the prime minister should offer her unequivocal support to those young men facing beheading."