Raif Badawi – facing yet more public beating – and the right to believe or not to believe – further questsions in Parliament


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Saudi Arabia: Raif Badawi

Question: Thursday June 11th 2015

11.29 am

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Saudi Arabia about the confirmation of a sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison against Raif Badawi.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, we are extremely concerned about Raif Badawi’s case and have discussed it at the most senior levels in the Government of Saudi Arabia, most recently on 9 June. The Foreign Secretary discussed this case in February and March with the Saudi Minister of the Interior, His Royal Highness Mohammad bin Naif, now Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The case is under active consideration and we will continue to watch it closely.

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, when the first 50 lashes were administered to Mr Badawi, he needed medical attention. If the Saudi Supreme Court’s decision that he should undergo a further 19 sessions of 50 lashes each is carried into effect, it will amount to torture

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followed by death. Does my noble friend consider it appropriate for a state such as Saudi Arabia, which has barbarous and inhumane punishments on its statute book for trivial offences, to continue to be a member of the Human Rights Council, and will the UK take steps to have the country removed from that position?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I shall be attending the Human Rights Council early next week. I know that a wide range of issues will be raised but I have not yet seen any matter referring to the membership of any individual country. However, it is the view of the United Kingdom that the treatment of people in detention must be in line with the protocol on torture, to which, of course, Saudi Arabia is a signatory.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, does the Minister agree that the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about the role of the United Nations Human Rights Council is fundamental? As recently as last week, the conference held by the OIC took place in Jeddah of all places—in a country which ranks sixth on the World Watch List for countries that violate freedom of religion and belief. Will she say whether the United Kingdom raised Raif Badawi’s case during that conference?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I repeat that I have raised this case on several occasions over a period. We remain deeply concerned and will continue to do our duty in that regard. On Tuesday in another place, the Foreign Secretary made it clear that we are urgently seeking to make contact with interlocutors and continue to do so. He said:

It will be my intention certainly to ensure that nothing happens on Friday”—[Official Report, Commons, 9/6/15; col. 1042.],

and he hopes that nothing of that nature happens at all.

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Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, on freedom of speech, does the Minister agree that this is not just about freedom of expression but, under Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, about the freedom to believe or not to believe, as in the case of Raif Badawi? In addition to torture, does she not agree that the reported 90 beheadings last year— 10 in this past month alone—in Saudi Arabia are one reason why groups such as Daesh have been able to take the law into their own hands in places such as Syria, emulating what has been done routinely in Saudi Arabia?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, one of the priorities of the Foreign Office is that the death penalty should be abolished throughout the world. However, it is clear that Saudi Arabia is not yet in a position where it will consider that. Sharia law is part of the very nature of its operations in the judiciary, and therefore we are not going to move to abolition. However, that does not stop us making strong representations about it. The House can be assured that at every opportunity I make the point that the death penalty does not work—quite simply, it is wrong in itself. The more we can explain that to countries around the world, the more we can improve the kind of result that we had in the United Nations vote before Christmas and the more we can persuade other countries to follow the right route, which is to abolish the death penalty.

Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabia blogger, faces another 50 lashes this Friday for writing about free speech. The Saudi authorities postponed Raif’s weekly lashes last Friday – in order to allow his wounds from the previous week’s lashings to heal before they beat him again.

You can express your concern to His Excellency, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador in London, Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the Saudi Arabian Embassy: 30 Charles Street, London W1J

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