Diplomatic Relations: Saudi Arabia

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 2nd April 2019.

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Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

What recent assessment he has made of the strength of the UK’s diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I visited Saudi Arabia most recently on 2 March. We have a long history of close co-operation in support of regional stability, alongside frank conversations on areas of concern, including human rights.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

I thank the Foreign Secretary for that answer. A UN human rights expert has said that the court proceedings relating to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi have been secret and fall short of international standards, and it was reported only today that Saudi Arabia is paying his family so that they continue to show restraint in their public statements. Can the Foreign Secretary update us on any conclusions that he has reached from the promised credible investigation into the murder?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I can assure the hon. Lady that we have been clear from the outset that what happened to Khashoggi was fundamentally against our values, and that there has to be full accountability and a transparent judicial process that meets international standards. That process has started and we continue to monitor it; we are sending observers to see what happens in the trial process. We continue to exercise our strong views on the issue, in private and in public.

Photo of Paul Williams Paul Williams Labour, Stockton South

Leaked medical reports published in last weekend showed that Saudi political prisoners have been subjected to torture, some are malnourished and others have been denied access to medical care. Are the Government silent on this?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Absolutely not. I raised the issue of detained women campaigners when I was recently in Saudi Arabia, and the Prime Minister has raised the case of Raif Badawi, the blogger who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes. The interesting thing about the report, if it is true, is that it was commissioned by the King, who wants to understand what is going on in the prisons, to ensure that they meet international standards of humanitarian justice.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley

Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that in the past week three women human rights activists have been released conditionally on bail in Saudi Arabia? What are the Government doing to press for the release and discharge of other women in prison?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I had not heard that report, but it would be excellent news. I can reassure the hon. Lady that I raised the issue when I met the Saudi Foreign Minister on my recent visit. We have asked to have access to the trials, but that has been denied. We continue to follow the case very carefully and press it at every opportunity.