January 9th marked three years since imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was flogged by the Saudi Arabian state. CAAT joined English PEN, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International at a vigil outside the Saudi embassy. We demanded Raif’s immediate release and an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
By continuing to arm and support the Saudi regime, the government is making itself complicit in the human rights abuses and atrocities that the regime is carrying out against Saudi people, as well as those that it is commiting in Yemen and Bahrain.
Raif was imprisoned in 2012 after he started a website called Free Saudi Liberals to encourage political debate in his country. He was charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes. In 2015 he was publicly flogged for the first time, receiving 50 lashes. There are fears he would not survive another flogging.
Raif’s lawyer Waleed Abulkhair is also in prison after speaking out against the terrible abuses he has had inflicted against him.
In a bid to secure arms sales and maintain good sales relations with the regime, the UK has failed to speak out on human rights issues. A prime example is the UK anti-death penalty advocacy strategy: this does not apply in Saudi Arabia, in spite of Saudi being one of the world’s most prolific executioners. In 2017 alone, Saudi authorities executed over 100 people. The tendency to ignore the violent reality of repression in Saudi Arabia has led to some astonishing hypocrisies, such as the UK government’s support for Saudi’s election to the UN Human Rights Council.
Public opinion is very clear. Poll after poll has shown that people in the UK overwhelmingly oppose arms sales to Saudi Arabia or any other human rights-abusing regime. We need to do all we can to mobilise public opinion.
In 2017, the High Court unfortunately ruled that the government decision to continue to arm Saudi Arabia was legal, in spite of all of the evidence presented that weaponry is used in contravention of international humanitarian law. CAAT is currently seeking an appeal of this decision but is yet to receive a response as to whether this will go ahead.
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