UPDATE: 11 June Sentence upheld and flogging could start tomorrow (Friday 12th)
The blogger Raif Badawi’s life is still in peril after the court in Saudi Arabia upheld the sentence of 1000 lashes. This case has received enormous publicity worldwide with calls for Raif to be pardoned and released. There is now a suggestion that he may face a retrial with the possible sentence of being executed.
This case brings into focus the role of the British government and arms sales to the Saudis. The Coalition government authorised £3.8bn in arms sales (Source: Campaign Against the Arms Trade) and previous governments have done the same. These arms are now being used in the Yemen where the latest death toll estimate has passed 2 000. CAAT say the human rights situation is ‘dire’ and Amnesty International has described in many reports the high rate of executions, routine torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and discrimination which is rife.
When the Badawi case came into the limelight earlier this year the British government was stirred into some kind of action. The Deputy crown prince Muhammad bin Nayef had dinner with the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond and met the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon on his visit here in February. Prince Charles was said to have raised the case with the Saudi Royal family on his visit to the country. The British Ambassador was quoted as saying that ‘Royal to Royal links have a particular value… These kinds of visits are capable of having a significant value.’
The government has long taken the approach that discrete and ‘behind the scenes’ contacts are better than what they might term mega-phone diplomacy.
The problem is that absolutely nothing has changed
It is interesting to contrast our government’s quietly, quietly approach – which is clearly ineffective – with Sweden which has cancelled its arms treaties with Saudi. They were worth £900m which compared to its size is worth more than Britain’s. France has a high level of sales to Saudi yet Francois Hollande felt able to speak out in public about their human rights record.
It is clear that the Saudi government is deaf to all approaches either from our ministers or from the Royal family. It is very hard to pursue an ethical foreign policy when what underpins everything is the sale of arms.
The local group has written to our local MP John Glen to ask him to lobby for a more vigorous response to the Saudis and we await his reply.