The right response to Saudi Arabia’s executions

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The spike in executions in Saudi Arabia is great cause for concern, as highlighted by the son of reformist Saudi cleric Salman al-Odah (My father called for reform in Saudi Arabia. Now he faces death, theguardian.com, 13 August) and a recent report by Helena Kennedy QC. Whenever the UK government is challenged about its apparent indifference to Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations, it justifies its silence by claiming it uses its significant economic and security ties to exert back-channel pressure.

Serial executions, including those of children, and the punitive treatment of anyone who challenges the authoritarianism behind the regime’s behaviour, underlines how back-channel influence is too often a self-serving piece of fiction. Kennedy’s report spells out what we can do to make clear that while children are executed and the rule of law is disregarded, it cannot be a case of business as usual with Saudi Arabia.
David Alton
House of Lords

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