First, may I thank the Foreign Secretary for advance sight of his statement and join him in sending condolences to Mr Khashoggi’s family and his fiancée, Hatice, a lady who waited in anguish outside the consulate for 11 hours while the Saudi butchers went about their barbaric work? She wrote this weekend:
“They took your bodily presence from my world. But your beautiful laugh will remain in my soul forever.”
The worst aspect of this disgraceful murder is that none of us has been remotely surprised about it. For the past three years, my party has warned about the actions of Mohammed bin Salman, first as the architect of Saudi policy on Yemen and then since his elevation to Crown Prince—doubling the rate of executions in his first eight months; kidnapping and beating up the Prime Minister of Lebanon and forcing him to resign; and jailing women’s rights activists and threatening to behead them. All those things have shown a man with no respect for the rule of law, no respect for international boundaries and no tolerance for dissent, all of which spelt the end for Jamal Khashoggi.
Of course, we have seen the Crown Prince’s true face most vividly in his continuing campaign in Yemen: a strategy of blockade and bombardment that has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes and put millions of children on the brink of starvation. When we look back at his air campaign, with the bombings of weddings, funerals and school buses, we have seen a repeated pattern played out. When major civilian casualties are reported, first they deny the reports are true; then they deny responsibility; and when the proof becomes incontrovertible, they say it is all a terrible mistake, they blame rogue elements, promise those will be punished and say it will not happen again—until the next time, when it does. This is exactly the same pattern we have seen here, which speaks of a Crown Prince who takes his allies for fools and relies on the fact that his lies will be believed, he will be exonerated and everyone will return to business as usual once the publicity has subsided—well not this time. Enough! It must not happen again.
The Government must wake up to the reality of who the Crown Prince is. It is just seven months since the Prime Minister rolled out the red carpet for him at Chequers, fawned all over him and hailed him as a great reformer. How utterly foolish she looks now, as some of us predicted she would do. The new Foreign Secretary has the chance to be different. He has just said, as he did on Friday morning, that if these stories are true there will be consequences for Britain’s relationship with Riyadh. But I ask him: how much more confirmation does he need? It is time to move on from asking what happened in Istanbul and who gave the orders—we all know the answers. The question is: what will the consequences that he promised be?
I ask the Foreign Secretary to consider three immediate steps. First, will he use the new Magnitsky powers included in the sanctions Bill to apply financial penalties on all individuals, up to and including the Crown Prince himself, who ordered and carried out this murder? Secondly, will the Foreign Secretary accept that UK arms sales for use in Yemen must be suspended pending a comprehensive, UN-led investigation into all alleged war crimes? Thirdly, more than two years on since the UK presented its draft resolution to the UN demanding a ceasefire in Yemen, will he finally ignore the informal Saudi veto hanging over that resolution and at last submit it to the Security Council? Those are three ways to show Saudi Arabia that there are consequences for its actions, three ways to end its impunity and persuade it to change its ways, and three ways to show this Crown Prince that we will no longer be played for fools—we have had enough.