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”
The parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls is about to publish a report into the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. It appears as though British-made weapons have been used to commit human rights abuses in Yemen.
Its draft report, seen by Newsnight’s Gabriel Gatehouse, said: “The weight of evidence of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition is now so great, that it is very difficult to continue to support Saudi Arabia.”
The committee said it seemed “inevitable” that such violations had involved arms supplied by the UK which would mean it was in violation of its own legal obligations.
I’m not sure, but I think the phrase “its own legal obligations” means aspects of UK law that prohibt certain kinds of sale.
It’s stuff like this that makes me (and human rights groups) extremely distrustful of the Conservative Government’s proposed ‘Bill of Rights’. This is a proposal to place our human rights protections entirely within the UK legal framework, with no reference to the law and jurisprudence of European Court of Human Rights.
As the Saudi arms sales story shows, this Government, in keeping with all past and future governments, cannot really be trusted to abide by its own rules and laws! There is therefore something extremely comforting about the European Convention on Human Rights, which is a treaty and an obligation that other countries can hold us to (and of course, we can hold them to it as well).
On human rights, I’m glad that Britain is not currently a ‘law unto itself’ and fear for the time when that changes.
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”