The group met for a business meeting yesterday and the Minutes are now completed.
On the occasion of Saudi National Day, I am reminded of the great history of Saudi Arabia. Today, the Saudi people can be rightly proud of their nation, of their history and their developments. Saudi Arabia is a strong nation, an important player in the world and a key partner of the UK. The development of this nation began with unification.
Sir John Jenkins, September 2014
Sir John Jenkins was the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and has been in the news recently following the mass execution of 47 people in that country. He was interviewed on the Today programme on the BBC and was asked if he wished to condemn the executions. This question seemed to vex him and prompted him to write a three page piece in the New Statesman (8 – 14 January 2016) in which he attempted to explain the quandary he found himself in. He wrote:
I understand the point of the question. But I have been wondering since then what exactly it is that I and others hare being invited to condemn. The fact of the execution its nature, the Shia identity of the victim [Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr] his status as a cleric, that the Saudis still practise capital punishment, the nature of their judicial system, the timing of the act, the suspicion that it might undermine the peace process in Syria or infuriate Iran – or perhaps all of this and more?
He then goes into a long explanation of the history of the country and its tortuous relationship with Iran and other neighbours. At the heart of the article is the assumption is that most of those executed along with al Nimr were terrorists. He then goes on to say that one might still think it is an act of state brutality and should be condemned as such but that this position is not a policy. The signal the Saudis sought to send out was that they will enforce the judgement of the courts on those who seek to undermine the stability of the kingdom.
The article begs a number of questions not least of which is the fact that most of those executed were not terrorists but people who are protesting at the iniquities of the state itself. Nothing like fair trials took place which is not unusual. Torture is routine and prisoners are denied access to lawyers.
His response and the subsequent article attracted some interest and a biting piece in Private Eye (No 1409). They pointed out that Sir John was now executive director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. A quick look at their web site reveals who it is who funds the charity. It is an interesting list and includes Lockheed Martin; BAE Systems; HSBC; British American Tobacco; Exxon; Raytheon; Ministry of Defence; Ministry of defense (Saudi Arabia) and so on, all organisations with a vested interest and substantial business interests in Saudi. It also receives substantial funding from FCO. Once again we see the interests of arms and other companies exercising undue influence over the opinion makers. Private Eye makes the point that it is a pity the BBC did not mention to its listeners the funding behind the institute when interviewing people like Sir John. Many might have been misled into thinking that they were hearing the wisdom of a former Ambassador not someone speaking for a range of arms firms and other business interests. No wonder Sir John was in such a quandary. He wants us to believe that Saudi is a strong nation. It is a long way from that. It is deeply corrupt and far from progressing seems by its recent actions, to be regressing.
This is the latest urgent action, this time for the ‘sunshine’ state of Florida. Urgent Actions are a key part of Amnesty activity and we ask that people spare a moment or two to write a letter or letters to the people concerned. You can try emailing but these are frequently blocked. You can read the details in the attachment below. If you can write it would be appreciated. Our monthly death penalty report is available.