Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’


We attach the death penalty report for April – May 2021. Note the report does not include China which is believed to execute thousands of its citizens but the statistics for which are a state secret.

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This is an extract from Amnesty’s annual death penalty report for 2020 which, overall, is good news with a decline in the use of the penalty around the world. It excludes China which executes thousands of its citizens but does not publish figures which are a state secret.

Once again the number of known executions has fallen (by 26%) and at 483 is now at its lowest for 10 years.  The number of known death sentences imposed has also fallen. Much of the fall in execution numbers has been driven by significant reductions in Saudi Arabia (down 84%) and Iraq (down over 50%).  However, these falls have been offset by a tripling of executions in Egypt to at least 107.

The five countries that executed the most people are China (1,000s), Iran (at least 246), Egypt (at least 107), Iraq (at least 45) and Saudi Arabia (27). In the USA the picture is mixed with state executions significantly down but this was negated by a surge in federal executions ordered by the outgoing Trump administration.  The USA remains the only country in the Americas to execute people.

The number of known death sentences handed down has also fallen from 2,307 to 1,477 although some of this reduction appears to be due to delays in proceedings in response to the pandemic.

18 countries are known to have carried out executions in 2020, a reduction of 2 since 2019.  Chad and the US state of Colorado abolished the death penalty and Kazakhstan committed to its abolition. On the other hand executions were resumed in India, Qatar, Oman and Taiwan.

Some of the more disturbing trends in 2020 included the following:

  • The Trump administration executed 10 people at the federal level in less than six months
  • China used the death penalty to crack down on offences related to Covid-19 prevention efforts
  • In some countries, including the USA, defence lawyers said that they had been unable to meet clients face to face because of Covid restrictions.

Asia-Pacific countries were notable for imposing death sentences for crimes not involving intentional killing, which is in violation of international law. This included drug offences in China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam, corruption in China and Viet Nam and for blasphemy in Pakistan. In the Maldives five people under the age of 18 at the time of their offences remain under sentence of death.

Nevertheless the trend remains positive. 144 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.  123 countries supported the UN General Assembly’s call for a moratorium on executions.  In the USA the state of Virginia recently became the first southern state to abolish the death penalty and several bills to abolish it at federal level are pending before Congress.

Amnesty continues to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and will continue to campaign until the death penalty is abolished everywhere for good.


We attach this month’s death penalty report thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it. Note that apart from a small item, China does not feature despite being the world’s largest executioner of its people. Details are a state secret.


We attach the latest death penalty report thanks to group member Lesley for the work in assembling it.

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Campaign Against the Arms Trade nominated for the Nobel peace Prize

We are delighted to report this news today (19 February 2021).  We have often featured CAAT in our posts especially concerning the UK arms industry’s supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia.  These weapons have been used to cause immense harm and destruction in Yemen.  The Saudi air force has bombed markets, schools, hospitals, clinics and wedding ceremonies killing many thousands of people and wounding many more.  UK personnel are ‘advising’ the Saudis, ostensibly to help them observe international human rights standards.  They carefully stop short of actually attaching the weapons as this would make them mercenaries.

The UK government was stopped from granting licenses but they have resumed.

The link shows how this award will help CAAT in their work.

 


The latest monthly death penalty report is attached with thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it.

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Loujain al-Hathloul released today

It is good to report that the Loujain al-Hathloul was released from prison in Saudi today (10 February 2021).  Amnesty and other human rights groups have campaigned on her behalf for some time following her arrest, imprisonment, including time spent in solitary confinement.  She alleges being tortured in prison which included the use of electric shocks, flogging as well as being sexually assaulted.  These allegations are entirely believable since torture is routinely practised in the kingdom.

Loujain was one of the campaigners arguing for allowing women to drive, which they now can do, but this did not absolve her from arrest.  Her sentence has been suspended and she is not allowed to talk about her time in prison or to leave Saudi.  If she does so, she faces being rearrested.

Two events might have combined to achieve this result.  A concerted campaign by human rights campaign groups to secure her release has led to continuous bad publicity for the kingdom and for Mohammed bin Salman.  The arrival of President Joe Biden who is noticeably cooler towards the kingdom and has already suspended arms sales is likely to have been a factor.  However, Grant Liberty is among those arguing that pressure must continue to secure other releases of people held in prisons after spurious trials.  They point out that the country still carries out arbitrary arrests; people are tortured; there are many executions; children are treated as adults by the courts; women’s rights are ignored; there is no free speech and human rights organisations are banned in the country.

Sources: Grant Liberty, al Jazeera, the Guardian


President temporarily halts arms sales to Saudi Arabia

It’s only temporary, but it may be a start.  It is being cast as part of the normal review of sales which a new president undertakes upon taking office but let us hope that it becomes permanent.  The scale of destruction in Yemen continues apace so anything which acts to reduce it must be welcomed.

Sources: HRW; The Hill

UK aid to Saudi Arabia

Posted: January 15, 2021 in Saudi Arabia
Tags: , , , ,

UK has funnelled £2.4m to the Saudis to help them comply with humanitarian law

Last year, there was a political fuss when the Department for International Development was merged with the Foreign Office and subsequently, its budget cut from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5%.  David Cameron, when prime minister, had kept to the higher level despite a fierce campaign and a string of exaggerated stories by the tabloid press, principally the Daily Mail.  DFID had a good reputation and with broadly favourable audit reports on how and where the money was spent and its effectiveness.

A number of prominent Conservatives, including Andrew Mitchell, Tobias Ellwood and others, opposed the move.  The pledge to keep the 0.7% was in the last party manifesto.  There were many Conservatives however who were in favour of the cuts saying that the aid was best spent at home especially with the money needed for Covid.  The arguments against the aid were that it was wasted and one example quoted was India which can afford nuclear weapons and has a space programme.

It is more than a little surprising therefore to discover that HMG has been quietly funding the Saudi government to the tune of £2.4m over a 4 year period to help them with meeting international humanitarian law requirements.  In view of the Saudi regime’s continuing activities, it doesn’t seem like it is money well spent.  Opposition to the regime is ruthlessly crushed.  The women who argued for the right to drive languish in prison.  Executions continue apace with a record 184 in 2019.  Torture is routine.  And then there is the bombing of Yemen where there have been 8,758 civilian deaths and 9,810 injured.  During the period of this funding, the regime murdered and then dismembered the body of Adman Khashoggi.

So while aid will be cut – not just the reduction in the percentage itself but the reduction in our GDP because of the pandemic – money continues to flow to one of the richest countries in the world.

Sources: Human Rights Watch; Guardian; al Jazeera; Yemen Data Project

 

 

 

 


The use of sport to sanitise regimes with atrocious human rights records may be increasing

The use of sport and ‘sports wash’ to give favourable publicity to regimes engaged in a range of human rights abuses is probably on the increase and has been particularly noticeable this year.  Sport is now a major international business and involves huge amounts of money.  Some sport is international in scope and has audiences numbered in the millions.  With such a captive audience, it is small wonder that countries who want to sanitise their reputations and present wholesome images of themselves, turn to sport to deliver those images.

Sport is also closely connected with the media and there are sometimes frenzied negotiations to get rights to publish or transmit sporting events.  With so much invested in securing rights and harvesting the advertising which goes with it, there is little time, space or inclination to question too much what goes on behind the scenes.  Sports pages live at the back of most newspapers and exist in a kind of private world.  Pages of dramatic photos of footballers, cricketers, rugby players and others are displayed seemingly detached from the rest of the world.

Abuses are many and include the terrible conditions workers endure building stadia in the Gulf for the football world cup.  Athletes themselves are subject to abuse by their trainers and coaches and British Cycling has been subject to allegations of this kind by a whistle-blower.  Drugs have been a perennial problem and infect many sports.

In recent years, we have seen more examples of sports wash.  We featured the attempt by Saudi Arabia to fund the Newcastle Football Club as part of its campaign to present a better image of the country.  A feature of that campaign was the encouragement it received from the the club’s supporters.

Holding this rally is ‘grotesque’

 

Today (6 January 2021), attention has focused on the Dakar rally which will pass close to the prison where Loujain al-Hathloul is held for campaigning for the right of women to drive.  The regime has been going through some contortions to get itself out of a PR mess of its own making.  The threat to imprison her for a lengthy jail term were dropped and with suspended sentences she should be released in a few months.  Loujain was kidnapped, held without access to a lawyer and tortured.  The rally is organised by the Amaury Sports Organisation whose website does not appear to make claims about human rights adherence.

A tweet from Grant Liberty says:

It is utterly grotesque that at the same time Saudi authorities will host a motor sport event — including women drivers — the heroes that won their right to drive languish in jail.  5 January 

Loujain’s sister said in a tweet:

No-one should be fooled by the Saudi regime’s attempts at sportswashing … Racers might not know it, but their participation there is to hide and whitewash the host’s crimes.  Lina al-Hathloul, Loujain’s sister 5 January

These trends suggest that sport needs to take greater interest in human rights and what is happening in the countries they compete in.  If they are being used to sanitise the reputation of regimes who torture, arrest opposition leaders, human rights defenders, lawyers and generally ignore the human rights of their citizens, they must ask themselves ‘is this what sport is for?’  Huge interest was generated when the footballer Marcus Rashford was influential in forcing the government to change its mind over school meals.  In some areas therefore, sport is beginning to use its power and its huge following to effect change.

But all too often, the lure of big money and a willingness to look the other way, seems to be the prevailing ethos.