On 28th October 2015 the Bishops of St Albans and Coventry received written answers to questions of Government on religious freedom in Saudi Arabia and its use of the death penalty.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Saudi Arabia concerning the cases of Dawood Hussein al-Marhoon and Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: We are aware of and seriously concerned by the cases of Dawood Hussein alMarhoon and Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher. We have raised these cases at a senior level in the Government of Saudi Arabia, most recently on 11 October. The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country, especially in cases which do not meet the minimum standards defined by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This includes the execution of a minor and the use of the death penalty for a crime which isn’t deemed “the most serious”.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effect of Saudi Arabia’s 2014 Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing on religious freedom in that country.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The British Government has been following Saudi Arabia’s counter-terrorism and terrorism financing legislation issue closely since it started being implemented on 31 January 2014. There has been no change to the limited level of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia and we are not aware of any persecution of religious groups through this legislation. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue to monitor this, including through the annual Human Rights and Democracy report.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the freedom of religious minorities in Saudi Arabia to practise their religion or belief in private.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The British Government strongly supports the right to freedom of religion or belief, which is restricted in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country in which Islamic law is strictly enforced and the public practice of any form of religion other than Islam is illegal. However, the Saudi authorities do accept foreign workers privately practising religions other than Islam. These restrictions on freedom of religion or belief reflect widely-held conservative social values in Saudi society. The Saudi authorities are encouraging reforms but at a pace that is acceptable to its society.