To coincide with the publication of Free and Fair, HuffPost UK published an edited version of my chapter on their politics homepage.
Here’s the central message of the piece:
How can FCO diplomats credibly oppose the sinister monitoring of online discussion in China, when GCHQ is running a comparable mass data collection programme in the UK? How can NGOs credibly protest the prosecution of Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül in Turkey for ‘revealing state secrets’ when our own Law Commission has proposed that the UK adopt a similar law? And how can activists effectively protest the treatment of writers like Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, imprisoned for merely imagining a new political system, when the UK Home Office is cooking up mechanisms to shut up our own radicals?
You can read the whole thing on HuffPost UK.
Today I was honoured to meet Ensaf Haidar – author, activist and wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
Raif Badawi was arrested in June 2012 and charged with ‘setting up a liberal website’. He was sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years imprisonment. His case is one of the most egregious human rights abuses in the world right now… and yet the British Government maintains cordial relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabi. Continue reading “#FreeRaif: Ensaf Haidar visits London”
In September I attended the launch of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Magna Carta Partnerships programme, a new fund that seeks to promote legal expertise and the rule of law around the world. FCO Minister Baroness Anelay was joined by current and former diplomats for a panel discussion on how good governance and robust legal institutions can strengthen the rule of law, and in so doing, also protect human rights.
The British Government is regularly criticised for its apparent support for human rights abusing regimes such as Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. So during the Q&A session I was able to ask the Minister and other panellists why our Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and officials overseas do not make more public statements on behalf of political prisoners like Raif Badawi.
You can listen to the exchange via the player below and on SoundCloud. Or you can just read the transcript. Continue reading “Why doesn’t the FCO speak out on behalf of Raif Badawi? Minister and officials respond”
On Wednesday I was invited onto the BBC World Service programme ‘BBC World Have Your Say’ to discuss Raif Badawi’s PEN Pinter Prize and the issues experienced by bloggers in Saudi Arabia. Also on the show were Evelyne Abitbol, Chief Execuitve of the Free Raif Badawi Foundation and Saudi Arabian journalists Essam Al Ghalib, Eman Al Nafjan of Saudi Woman, and Abeer Mishkas.
You can hear our segment via the player below or on SoundCloud. The entire programme can be heard on the BBC website or BBC iPlayer. Continue reading “Debating Saudi ‘Red Lines’ on the BBC”
First posted yesterday on Huffington Post UK.
Today is the third anniversary of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi’s arrest, and thousands of activists around the world are demanding the reversal of his conviction on charges of blasphemy and ‘setting up a liberal website’. Many gathered at Downing Street today as a letter signed by hundreds of writers and politicians was delivered to Prime Minister David Cameron.
But the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in London is not amused. Last week, it issued an indignant response to the ongoing campaign for Badawi’s release.
‘…the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia wishes to state that it has no tolerance for foreign entities meddling in the Kingdom’s internal affairs,’ said the statement. ‘The Kingdom will not tolerate such outrageous, ridiculous interference in its sovereign criminal justice system.’ Continue reading “No, Ambassador: It’s Not ‘Meddling’ to Call for Free Speech in Saudi Arabia”
Last week the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hit back at those who have been voicing their dismay at the hideous and inhuman sentence handed down to liberal blogger Raif Badawi.
The Kingdom cannot believe and strongly disapproves what has been addressed in some media outlets about the case of Citizen Rai’ef Mohammed Badowi and the judicial sentence he has received.
While we regret the aggressive attacks these media have leveled against the Kingdom and its Judiciary system, the Kingdom assures at the same time that it rejects in shape and form any interference in its internal affairs.
Blaming the ‘media’ is a well worn cliché that oppressive regimes like to deploy when seeking to play down their human rights abuses. In this case, however, it’s just flat out wrong. Yes, the media have reported on the Raif Badawi case and published scathing op-eds from the likes of yrstrly. But the bulk of the outcry has been on social media, where hundreds of thousands of people are voicing their distaste for Wahhabi justice.
There is also this:
… the Kingdom unequivocally rejects any aggression under the pretext of Human Rights; after all, the constitution of the Kingdom originates from the Islamic Sharia which enshrines one’s sacred rights to life, property, honor, and dignity.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been one of the first States to promote and support human rights and has on this regard respected all international conventions congruent with the Islamic Sharia.
This is just delusional. By no stretch of the imagination can flogging someone for peaceful political speech be considered a protection of “honour and dignity” or human rights.
Lest we forget, Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights States:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
First posted on the Independent website.
Do we see a glimmer of light in the dark case of Raif Badawi? King Abdullah has referred the case to the Saudi Arabian supreme court, following the international dismay at the public flogging Badawi received earlier this month.
Last week the news was grim. The imprisoned blogger might not have received his scheduled 50 lashes on Friday morning, but this was no act of clemency on the part of the Saudi authorities. The flogging was only delayed because Badawi was too ill and weak from his flogging the week before.
One-thousand lashes and a 10 year prison term would be a brutal punishment for any crime. But the fact that Badawi has received this sentence for insulting Islam and of founding a liberal website is astonishing. The world is appalled. The Charlie Hebdo murders have drawn public attention to ideas of freedom of speech and blasphemy, and the Raif Badawi case offers a chillingly convenient coda to the events in Paris. Continue reading “We can win the fight to save Raif Badawi from the horror of Saudi Arabian ‘justice’”
On Friday morning, I led a small vigil outside the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in support of Raif Badawi, the blogger convicted of ‘Insulting Islam’ and ‘founding a liberal website.
Continue reading “Railing against Saudi Arabia at the vigil for Raif Badawi”
The public debate following a major news story has distinct phases. We are all literate in the stages: frantic news reports; confirmation of what has happened; The first opinion pieces, trying to make sense of what has happened (or, less charitably, spinning the events to fit the author’s world-view). Then we get push-back and counter-point to the earlier opinions; and ‘meta’ articles, discussing not the event itself, but the reporting, and the public response. Technology moves so fast that this piece I published on the Huffington Post is very much a ‘late era’ Charlie Hebdo article, despite the fact it was only (at the time of writing) six days since the hideous events in Paris. Continue reading “I Am Not Brave Enough to ‘Be Charlie’… And Neither Are You”