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Saudi Arabia

Volume 650: debated on Tuesday 4 December 2018

2. What discussions he has had with his Saudi Arabian counterpart on the use of the death penalty in that country. (907987)

Our policy on the death penalty has not changed, and we continue to raise human rights issues with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other countries.

I am sure that the Foreign Secretary is aware that my right hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable) yesterday asked the Prime Minister whether she would make an appeal for clemency on behalf of the 12 men who currently face imminent execution. Is the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister willing to do that?

We continue to make representations on all cases of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, and I will look carefully into the case the right hon. Gentleman raises. I have to be direct with him and say that, because it is connected to sharia law, we think it unlikely that Saudi Arabia will change its policy on the death penalty, so most of the interventions we make tend to be in cases where a juvenile has committed the offence, or where we do not think the offence is egregious and where we think we will have the best chance of success.

The Government would have us believe that our close ties with Saudi Arabia have led to the regime behaving more humanely. Given that almost 100 Yemeni children were recently killed by Saudi airstrikes, and given the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, there is very little evidence to back up that claim, so can the Foreign Secretary point to the evidence that the UK is making the Saudi regime more humane and more responsible?

Perhaps this simple fact: yesterday, 50 Houthi rebels were airlifted to Oman, which was the essential precondition for peace talks starting in Stockholm, and they may start tomorrow or on Friday.

Last month, the United States imposed Magnitsky sanctions on 17 individuals accused of involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Many of them now face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Of course I would not ask the Foreign Secretary to comment on any individual cases, but can he simply tell us how many of those 17 individuals accompanied Crown Prince Salman on his visit to the UK in April?

The Home Office is doing a lot of work on what happened with all those 17 individuals, and there have been media reports that some of them did accompany the Crown Prince when he came to the UK. We want justice in the case of Khashoggi. It is an appalling case, and the Prime Minister made that clear to the Crown Prince when she met him in Buenos Aires. We have made it clear in my private meetings, too.