Middle East: Saudi Arabia guilty of appalling human rights violations, MPs say

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The Independent Online
Saudi Arabia has come under heavy criticism for its poor human rights record. In a report published today it is claimed that in the kingdom "torture is endemic ... brutal and sustained".

The report, jointly published by the all-party parliamentary human rights group and the charity Redress, says that 540 people have been executed since 1990, after trials "which are not conducted in accordance with internationally accepted judicial standards".

Also under attack is the British Foreign Office. The report argues that there is "evidence that the UK has consistently failed to protect its nationals when they become victims of torture, and may even have acquiesced in providing the Saudi regime with the instruments it uses to commit torture". Claims made by two British nurses that they were pressurised into confessing to the murder of their colleague were "not unusual," the report says.

Ann Clwyd, chair of the parliamentary group and one of the report's authors, said: "It is bad form to refer to public beheadings, floggings and amputations in Saudi Arabia. The Foreign Secretary's mission statement, which commits us to spreading values of democracy and human rights around the world, appears not to apply in the Gulf."

One of the reasons for this may be the history of commerce between the UK and Saudi Arabia, including the al-Yamamah deal, whereby Saudi Arabia bought British arms and paid in oil. As with Indonesia, Mr Cook seems unwilling to jeopardise British jobs and money for his principles, the report says. According to Amnesty International, which two months ago published its own report criticising the Saudi regime, 125 people suffered the death penalty last year alone, casting doubt over "many aspects of the Saudi trials system".

The Saudi embassy in London declined to comment.