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House of Lords written question – answered on 12th May 2011.

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Photo of Lord Patten Lord Patten Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the political and human rights situation in Saudi Arabia; and whether they have made representations regarding the use of Saudi Arabian security forces in Bahrain.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy)

Saudi Arabia is an important partner for the UK in the Middle East and our relationship encompasses vital work on counterterrorism, regional security, including the situation in Yemen, energy security, trade, defence and education.

We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and we have made our views well known, including through the universal periodic review process and in discussions with the Saudi Government. Our embassy regularly raises our concerns, including the death penalty. Our concerns are also set out clearly in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office human rights report each year. In 2010 we worked both bilaterally and with the EU in four priority areas: women's rights; the death penalty; rights of foreign workers; and judicial reform. The UK funded a number of projects in 2010 including training to female entrepreneurs.

We are also concerned about the situation in Bahrain, and are deeply concerned at reports of ongoing human rights abuses there.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and the Saudi Foreign Minister met in London on 22 March and had a constructive discussion on Bahrain. The Foreign Secretary and Prince Saud agreed that the Gulf Co-operation Council forces, who are in Bahrain at the legitimate invitation of the Bahraini Government, should work to create the right conditions for a successful dialogue. We have seen no evidence that GCC forces in Bahrain have done anything other than safeguard installations.

We will continue to make our concerns known to the Bahraini Government, working closely with international partners. We will keep the situation under constant review.

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