SNP and Scottish Greens call for UK to oppose Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations


Gulf state should face investigation for executions, war crimes and abuse of minorities

THE UK SHOULD take action to challenge the oppression and violence of the country’s trade and arms partner Saudi Arabia, according to Green and SNP politicians.

The Gulf dictatorship – which is currently bombing and blockading Yemen where 21m people need urgent aid to prevent a famine – has faced a new outcry following its selection to chair a United Nations council on human rights.

Stewart McDonald, MP for Glasgow South, and Maggie Chapman, co-convenor of the Scottish Green, have spoken out against the appointment and called for the UK to place democracy and human rights ahead of vested financial interests.

McDonald, who has written to Prime Minister David Cameron over the appointment of Faisal bin Hassan Trad as chair of the consultative group on human rights, said: “Many people around the world are rightly concerned about the grave and systematic abuses of human rights in Saudi Arabia. The notion that an administration that is itself responsible for such human rights abuses should now be put in charge of overseeing and protecting human rights worldwide is both absurd and deeply concerning.

“Given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, the Kingdom should never have been eligible for a place on the UN HRC, let alone gifted this incredibly important and influential position. Far from directing the appointment of special rapporteurs and other high profile UN human rights positions, Saudi Arabia should itself be subject to an investigation by the UN for its human rights record.

“There are important questions to be answered about how this appointment came to be made in the first place, and whether the UK had any role in supporting the appointment, but most urgently the UK Government must now use the full resources of the UK delegation to the UN to call for Mr Trad to be removed from his position and to urgently seek a more appropriate appointment so that the UN Council for Human Rights can command the confidence of other member states and the public.”

Saudi Arabia is a major recipient of UK arms exports. It’s current bombing campaign against Yemen – carried out with UK sold Hurricane aircraft – has led to accusations of war crimes violations.

The charity Oxfam has spoken out, claiming the UK is complicit in reports of indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

The dictatorship – which plans to execute a 17 year old Ali Mohammed al-Nimr for taking part in political protest – enjoys a favourable relationship with Western states due to its position as the world’s biggest exporter of crude oil.

Chapman, who is also a lead Green candidate for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, said the country’s abuses are intolerable and, like with apartheid South Africa, Saudi Arabia should face an international economic boycott.

Chapman, writing on Kaleidoscot , said: “The actions of the Saudi Arabian government would, in a country with less oil, bring international isolation. The news, therefore, that Saudi Arabia has been chosen to lead a UN Panel on Human Rights should bring the appropriate scrutiny on this tyrannical regime. Not only is the state an absolute monarchy, it is one that routinely denies the rights of women, ethnic minorities and LGBTIQ people. Their actions in the current conflict in Yemen further exacerbate tensions and act to undermine human rights.

“As someone whose parents left South Africa during apartheid, in no small part because of apartheid and the sporting and cultural boycott, I know the power of international action on rogue states. The time has come to make Saudi Arabia the international pariah it deserves to be.”

Chapman continued: “When Scotland refused to fly flags at half-mast following the death of King Abdullah in January it made clear that the rights of LGBTIQ people, women and minorities are important. We must go further to stigmatise the Saudi junta. We should avoid trade with Saudi – especially arms and equipment likely to be used for torture.

“We must be clear that until the rights of women, minorities and LGBTIQ people are respected, Saudi Arabia will be subject to sanctions.”

The Swedish Government cancelled its arms deal with Saudi Arabia in March, although it faced considerable diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia and the military business community.

Picture courtesy of Tijl Vercaemer