The SNP condemns without exception the sheer disregard and violation of fundamental human rights as we see so blatantly in Saudi Arabia.
We are horrified and heartbroken by the news of continued and systematic violence and persecution ongoing in Saudi Arabia at the hands of an oppressive regime.
On 27 September 2022, King Salman appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as prime minister, a position previously held by the king, in an exception to the Basic Law of Governance. Since then, there has been a continuation of condemnations of the crown prince’s actions and violations of human rights.
Leading members of the European Parliament issued a statement on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, condemning a mass execution on 12 March and urging the country to establish an immediate moratorium on executions.
The Saudi Arabian regime has a deep rooted history of oppressing the freedom of expression and association. This commonly includes the monitoring of social media, and the arrest and detention of individuals for tweeting opinions which could be seen as “disrupting public order and destabilising the state” – a law which is a breach of international legal standards.
In February 2022, the Saudi Human Rights Commission told Amnesty International that the country no longer executed individuals “for crimes committed by minors” and had commuted all such outstanding sentences. However, between June and October, the SCC and another criminal court upheld the death sentences of three young men who were under the age of 18 at the time of the capital crimes.
In the single largest mass execution in recent decades, 81 men – citizens and foreign nationals – were executed on 12 March last year. According to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior, those executed were convicted of a range of offences, including terrorism-related crimes, murder, armed robbery and arms smuggling. Some of those executed were also convicted of “disrupting the social fabric and national cohesion” and “participating in and inciting sit-ins and protests”, which describe acts that are protected by the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Of those executed, 41 were from Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a minority.
The brutality of Saudi Arabia’s government is well known and documented, and for over a decade, the SNP have been appealing to the UK Government to address Saudi Arabia’s bleak human rights record in their dealings with the state.
In 2018 it was reported, through Freedom of Information requests, that the MoD was aware of 381 reported violations of humanitarian law in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi Arabian government. Despite this knowledge, the UK Government did not conduct any independent investigations into the allegations and continued to trade arms with Saudi Arabia.
This horrific neglect of human rights by the UK Government was an issues raised by multiple SNP members at the time, and we as a party have spoken out against the UK Governments continued exportation of arms to Saudi Arabia – an issue which is at the forefront of our minds and one which we will continue to make the subject of our scrutiny.
The upcoming visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be his first to the UK since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. This murder was condemned by the West at the time, and yet the Prime Minister has recently been recorded as saying that he is “looking forward” to meeting the crown prince.
The SNP agrees with the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson, who recently stated that the invitation of the crown prince to the UK sends a signal that Saudi Arabia can act with impunity.
A representative from Amnesty International condemned the invitation by the UK Government, and was clear that this must not be an opportunity for the crown prince to try and redeem himself on the world stage – a statement which the SNP wholeheartedly agrees.
SNP Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Brendan O’Hara MP, called out the UK Government for their hypocrisy regarding their willingness to turn a blind eye to breaches of humanitarian law when there is money to be made, specifically in the case of their ongoing trade deals with Saudi Arabia.
The SNP are a party driven by the rule of law and upholding international standards of human rights and these principles form a core part of our foreign affairs policy approach.
Taking into consideration the reports from international human rights organisations, we too share your concern about the potential fate of child-defendants Abdullah al-Howaiti, Abduallah al-Derazi and Youssef al-Manasif.
A joint letter has been signed by Reprieve US, Human Rights Watch, ALQST for Human Rights, European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Freedom House, Freedom Initiative and Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and sent to the US Secretary of State, asking him to intervene and put pressure on the Saudi Arabian Government not to execute the child defendants.
The SNP is an ardent believer that human rights organisations and civil society can have a huge impact in the actions of governments, and we support the crucial and lifesaving work of these organisations regarding the fate of many Saudi Arabians persecuted by the government.
I will seek to make the UK Government aware of this campaign and will personally table a written parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development affairs, asking him what discussions he held with cabinet colleagues on concerns over the visit of the crown prince to the UK.