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Saudi Arabia: Politics and Government

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 14th December 2011.

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Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Independent, North Down

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the findings of the report by Amnesty International entitled Saudi Arabia: Repression in the name of Security; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The Amnesty international report on Saudi Arabia summarises the current human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. It covers the draft anti-terror law, detentions and trials, and freedom of expression. Our embassy in Riyadh has been engaged in a dialogue with the Saudi Arabian Government on these issues for some time. There is widespread acceptance in the Saudi Government and Saudi human rights organisations that the draft anti-terror law is unsuitable in its present form: the current draft is extremely unlikely to pass into law. Our embassy has raised the issue of arbitrary detentions with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice and has been given permission to attend a forthcoming terror trial.

We have asked the Saudi authorities for more information with regard to the case referred to in the Report, which concerns 16 men convicted under anti-terror legislation to sentences ranging from five to 30 years, before we determine our next course of action. Freedom of expression concerns largely relate to the periods of unrest in the Eastern Province this year. Following the most recent outbreak of unrest in November, we note the Saudi Arabian Government issued a statement that security forces have been instructed to exercise restraint. We welcome the willingness of Saudi human rights organisations to engage with Amnesty on human rights concerns, which will raise awareness of the progress made by Saudi Arabia to date and give greater clarity on the requirements for further reform.

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