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

  1. Reblogged this on Homo economicus' Weblog and commented:
    A reply by the Foreign and Common Office to the Free Raif campaign.

    The email I received, which linked to this post I have reblogged also mentioned:

    “On the same day it was confirmed that Raif’s case has for the second time been referred to the Saudi Supreme Court – an unprecedented occurrence. We are confident that your support for our Open Letter will have contributed to that.

    We know we have to do a lot more work. The numerous human rights organisations, English PEN, Index on Censorship, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the Jimmy Wales and Peter Tatchell Foundations will be meeting again next week to discuss how we continue the campaign to free Raif and Waleed and to fight for free speech and human rights in Saudi Arabia.”

    Liked by 1 person

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