DUP MP Gregory Campbell has suggested Saudi Arabia gets an easy ride from the United Kingdom due to the countries’ close commercial links despite its repression of women and religious minorities and its brutal practice of publicly chopping people’s heads off in the middle of Riyadh.
The East Londonderry MP challenged junior Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Minister Tobias Ellwood on King Salman and his family’s human rights record in the House of Commons.
He asked if the billions soften the United Kingdom Government’s backbone.
“The Minister referred to our close relationship with Saudi Arabia but said that that should not mean that we shy away from raising legitimate human rights concerns,” said Mr Campbell.
“Does he understand that the concern that many people have, both in this House and across the United Kingdom, is that commercial considerations are doing precisely that?
“What can he say, and what can the Government do, to ensure that commercial considerations are not being put ahead of human rights concerns, both for religious minorities and females?” asked Mr Campbell.
Mr Ellwood replied: “I touched on that in my statement and have made it very clear that no aspect of our commercial relationship with Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, prevents us from speaking frankly, and indeed openly, about human rights challenges.
“We will not pursue trade to the exclusion of human rights; they can and should be complementary.”
In that same statement he also pointed out that “Saudi Arabia is one of the UK’s largest trading partners in the middle east, and the leading middle eastern exporter of goods to the UK.”
He said: “In 2014, exports of goods reached over £4 billion, and exports of services in 2013 reached over £5 billion. UK companies, with the assistance of Her Majesty’s Government, have delivered projects worth over £2 billion so far this financial year in the transport, healthcare and education sectors, but this does not come at the expense of human rights; we can, and do, raise these issues with the Saudi Arabian Government.”
Aside from the repression of minorities and women, Saudi Arabia, routinely beheads people in public in Deera Square in the Kingdom’s capital of Riyadh.
Remarkably, in the year and a half between the capture of United States journalist James Foley’s and his brutal beheading by Islamic State in August 2014, Saudi Arabia had beheaded a total of 113 people, the majority of these publicly in Deera Square, which has been gruesomely dubbed ‘Chop Chop Square.’