On 26th and 27th September, the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, received written answers to four questions of Government about Saudi Arabia: on religious freedom, radicalisation & British arms sales.
(ii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they made to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Abdel al-Jubeir, when he visited London on 4 September, concerning religious freedom, eliminating discriminatory enforcement of laws against religious minorities, and promoting respect and tolerance for minority Muslim and non-Muslim religious practices and beliefs.
(iii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what guarantees, if any, they sought from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Abdel al-Jubeir, when he visited London on 4 September, that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia will only be used in accordance with international humanitarian law.
(iv) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they made to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Abdel al-Jubeir, when he visited London on 4 September, concerning reports of financial and logistical support provided by Saudi Arabia to Daesh and other radical Sunni groups in the Middle East and Asia. Answers:
(i) Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Saudi Arabia remains a human rights priority country because of the restrictions on the freedom of religion and belief, including the prohibition on publicly practising religions other than Islam. The UK Government strongly supports the right to freedom of religion or belief as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international human rights instruments.
(ii) Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Saudi Arabia remains a Foreign and Commonwealth Office human rights priority country, particularly because of the restrictions on freedom of religion or belief. Although not discussed on 5 September, we regularly raise our concern with the Government of Saudi Arabia.
(iii) Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: During his visit to London on 4-5 September, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had meetings with the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. Both raised the importance of Coalition compliance with their international humanitarian law obligations.
The UK Government takes its arms export licensing responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. Our defence exports to Saudi Arabia are kept under careful and continual review to ensure they meet the rigorous standards of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application.
We welcomed the High Court’s ruling in July this year that UK Government decisions on arms export licensing to Saudi Arabia are lawful. The judgment stated the Government was rationally entitled to conclude that Saudi Arabia has been, and remains, genuinely committed to compliance with international humanitarian law. We note the application to appeal and will continue to defend the decisions challenged.
(iv) Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: This was not discussed on 5 September. We have seen no evidence to suggest there has been any funding of Daesh by the Government of Saudi Arabia. Where we do have concerns we do not shy away from raising them. Saudi Arabia has had its own painful experiences as the victim of numerous Daesh attacks. It is a key ally in the fight against Daesh, participating in coalition airstrikes to fight it and speaking out against its poisonous ideology.