The Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s reply to our Open Letter

Delivery of Open Letter and Day of Action on June 17th

We delivered our Open Letter to David Cameron along with a delegation of parliamentarians and human rights activists. In the evening we held a public meeting in Parliament

See this link for videos, photographs and report.

On August 12th we received a reply.

We put here and below a link to the FCO’s response to our Open Letter in support of Raif Badawi



We asked some of our signatories for some quick comments. We welcome other comments which will be published here after moderation.

“The UK government has always claimed to raise human rights concerns in meetings with the Saudis, but these consequence-free “expressions of concern” are meaningless (and obviously disregarded by the regime). 

The letter says that Saudi remains an FCO “designated Country of Concern” but fails to mention that the government has now decided to abolish this designation in its human rights reporting (which was a joke to begin with – a recent FCO human rights report on Bahrain was something of a whitewash)

The line about Saudi being a conservative country is a standard one, and probably designed to appeal to Islamophobic and anti-Arab prejudice. The House of Saud is not a natural product of the traditions and society of the Arabian peninsula but a extreme and violent faction which conquered the country by force of arms less than 100 years ago. We cannot know for certain, given the total ban on political expression, but many Saudis are likely to be as appalled by Badawi’s treatment as we are.

The line about arms exports controls is standard as well, and doesn’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny.”

David Wearing, Journalist and Phd researcher on UK-Saudi relations, SOAS

“Interesting to see them admitting that under the EU’s Consolidated Criteria on arms exports respect for human rights in the destination country is “mandatory” – even while admitting that Saudi Arabia’s lack of respect for human rights makes it a “designated country of concern” to the British government. Any normal person might think there was a rather glaring contradiction between these two admissions. But to the mandarin mind it is magically invisible. “Do I contradict myself?” the mandarin purrs, half-remembering Walt Whitman. “Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large – almost as large as our earnings from arms exports. I contain multitudes of moolah.” 

Francis Wheen, Writer and journalist

“It would be interesting to know why this letter was delayed – we didn’t receive it until the 12th August –  peculiarly it doesn’t say when it was written other than ‘July’.

Tory Foreign Minister Tobias Ellwood at the Parliamentary debate successively called for by the SNP’s Stewart MacDonald on July 21st, claimed the issue had been referred to the Saudi Supreme Court. But nothing was confirmed until the same day as we received the letter: August 12th.

We obviously hope that the Supreme Court will release Raif Badawi and will go on to review and release Waleed Abu AlKhair as well as the hundreds and thousands of political prisoners. But we know that we may yet have a lot more work to do.

And we can have little confidence in the British government when it can claim in this letter that it has “concerns about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia” and that it abides by EU Criteria on arms trade that requires “respect for human rights” in the recipient country. It clearly has 1 + 1 but comes up with 0 – i.e no political action to free Raif or the others suffering at the hands of the Saudi regime.

Pete Radcliff, Free Raif campaigner and Broxtowe Labour Party

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If they flog Raif – again we must take action

Like millions across the world we are demanding that Raif be not flogged again but if he is we must take immediate action.

Would you pledge to protest, if you can, on the day after such an event? We are proposing that as many people gather outside the Saudi Embassy in London We hope the threat of such action – will make the Saudi authorities aware of the outrage it will cause.

For the moment we are gathering names and email addresses of those who will agree to attend. The protests will be in the afternoon to allow those from outside London to make it.

If you would be prepared to consider joining our protest please fill in the online form from this link  We will then email you with the details of such a protest.

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Brief report of our Day of Action

We were very pleased at the Day of Action we held on Wednesday, 17th June in London

We presented our Open Letter with names of 930 human rights activists, politicians, writers, bloggers, journalists, lawyers, trade unionists and workers at 2pm.

Downing Street delegation

Downing Street delegation

Thanks to all of the delegation who were allowed into Downing Street.

GlenysAnd thanks to the other 40 supporters of Raif, Waleed and others prisoners of conscience who joined us outside Parliament and to whom Glenys Kinnock spoke afterwards.

Glenys Kinnock addressed some of the supporters who turned up at Downing Street.

We held a successful public meeting later in Parliament with speakers as advertised but with Sarah Champion at the last minute stepping in to speak on behalf of Labour MPs support for the letter.

Representatives of most of the organisations involved in the day, English PEN, Index on Censorship, Jimmy Wales Foundation, Free Raif UK, Campaign Against the Arms Trade met during the day and put a number of proposals to the meeting.

We will write these up soon but the important and urgent one is what we can do stop further lashing of Raif. We agreed that if Raif is flogged again we would organise the largest protest we can on the following day, Saturday outside the Saudi Embassy.

Please see this post to pledge your support for such a protest and this link for videos of the speeches made at the parliamentary meeting on the day

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