Saudi Arabia has some of the most inhumane prison conditions in the world, and is notorious for its prolific use of the death penalty, including executing minors and those convicted of offences such as "sorcery". Its courts sentence people to flogging, amputations, and "eye for an eye" punishments, including surgical paralysis. There are multiple, credible reports of people being tortured in detention and imprisoned without fair trial.
None of this has stopped the UK's Ministry of Justice from offering its services to the Saudi government for a fee: it seems our government is quick to shrug off its commitment to human rights if the price is right. There was an international outcry when the activist Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes merely for advocating freedom of expression. Such freedoms are something we cherish in the UK as fundamental rights for all people. Yet incredibly, UK Ministers have started to defend Raif's flogging . It's a far cry from what the Minister for Human Rights said on World Press Freedom Day, only two months ago, when she spoke of how "invaluable" freedom of speech was, and of "the importance of defending the right to freedom of expression exercised by an increasingly broad spectrum of individuals, including bloggers, social media activists and traditional media organisations."
The Ministry of Justice's bid to the Saudi government has been made through its secretive commercial arm, Just Solutions international, also known as "JSi". Requests for information about JSi's proposal to the Saudi authorities have been refused on the grounds of commercial sensitivity, and attempts under the Freedom of Information Act to find out about JSi itself have been blocked by the Ministry of Justice who have said that it would be "too expensive" to find the relevant emails. And JSi are not only selling our public services to Saudi Arabia. They are also working with Bahrain and Oman, two countries well known for their atrocious human rights records and repression of democratic movements.
The Gulf Center for Human Rights works with human rights defenders in the Gulf states and beyond. Those we support, like Raif, face persecution by the states in which they live simply for peaceful campaigning. Several of our own founding members are still imprisoned in Bahrain. We are bringing this case because we want to hold the UK government to account for its actions in legitimising the abuses that the Saudi Arabian government perpetrates in its prisons and its justice system. You can read more about the case in the Guardian.
We have a really good case to challenge the JSi bid, but we need help to raise money to fund it. To start with we need to raise £5,000 to cover our exposure to the Government’s legal costs in case we lose.
Please help us today by donating what you can – anything would be great! We need to try and get at least £5000 to start. We might need more as the case progresses, but any additional money not needed for the case will be donated to the Free Raif Badawi Campaign .
Many, many thanks
- Anna Dakin
- Hugh Williams
- Ross McNally
- Theresa Evans
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