On 29th July the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon “Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020”. The Right Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, spoke in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I, too, welcome this new regime of sanctions, but we must of course ensure that targeted sanctions do not become empty gestures. As other noble Lords have indicated, these sanctions will be most effective when they are consistent with other foreign policy priorities and done through co-ordinated, collective action. Without the support of a wider coalition, we risk being isolated diplomatically.
On 12th May the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, received a written answer from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon to a question on the Government’s response to the deportation of 30,000 Ethiopian migrant workers by the Saudi Arabian authorities.
Lord Bishop of Coventry: HL3686 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Saudi Arabia’s decision to deport 30,000 Ethiopian migrant workers, including some who are suspected of suffering from COVID-19.
On 30th October 2019 the Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a question about the situation in Yemen, on behalf of the Bishop of St Albans, who was unable to attend:
Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the deal brokered by the government of Saudi Arabia in Yemen and the prospects for lasting peace there.
Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, who apologises for the fact that he cannot be in his place today.
The Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, the UK welcomes signs of progress through the Saudi-led talks to bring together the Government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council to reach a peaceful settlement following the clashes in Aden in August. This has further demonstrated the need for inclusive political talks through the UN-led peace process. The UK urges all parties to engage constructively with the UN special envoy Martin Griffiths to broker a sustainable peace for all of Yemen.
Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and I share his support for any initiative that brings peace to Yemen, but this deal brokered by the KSA brings only limited opportunities for a peaceful future in the region. After four years and seven months, almost 100,000 people have died—84,000 children from starvation, and 2,500 from cholera. What pressure are Her Majesty’s Government putting on Saudi and Emirati opposites to secure an immediate cessation to the wider war in Yemen?
On 25th June 2019 the Bishop of St Albans asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of weapons exported from the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia on the conflict in Yemen”. The Lord Bishop, Rt Revd Alan Smith, then asked a follow-up question:
Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government take their arms export responsibilities seriously. We draw on a range of sources in making assessments, including from NGOs and international organisations which detail political and humanitarian developments in Yemen. We also consult regularly with colleagues at our overseas missions and in other government departments to ensure that we have all the relevant information to make an informed decision.
Bishop of St Albans: I thank the Minister for his reply. I was given an assurance in a past written response to a Question that every sale of arms from the UK undergoes a rigorous assessment in the light of serious violations of international humanitarian law. Yet in 2018 a Minister in the other place said:
“The MOD does not investigate allegations of IHL violations”,
and in 2016, as evidenced in the Court of Appeal last week, the decision was made that there would be no assessment of past violations of international humanitarian law with regard to Saudi Arabia. Can the Minister clarify whether international humanitarian law is taken into consideration when selling weapons?
On 6th November 2018 the Earl of Sandwich asked the Government “what steps they are taking to help end the famine caused by the war in Yemen.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow-up question:
I have long been concerned by the terrible situation in Yemen so asked the Government today what they were doing about it pic.twitter.com/QhuUfYiKuG
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.
(i) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of freedom of religion or belief in Saudi Arabia.
(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.
On 18th July 2017, Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Saudi Arabia about the imminent execution of fourteen people, including two juveniles. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Revd. Justin Welby, asked a follow-up question. Below is his question and its ministerial response.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, as the noble Lord said a few moments ago, we have heard some very balanced and judicious answers, with considerable condemnation and very clear statements. However, surely the depth of our relationship with Saudi Arabia in trade and finance, and the presence of many Saudi Arabians in this country—the long-standing way in which we have been together through war and peace—would indicate that we have the options for significantly more leverage than mere condemnation. I wonder what other measures the Government are taking which involve action as well as condemnation, particularly over this question.
On 29th July and 2nd August 2016 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received written answers to questions of Government on capital punishment and religious freedom in Saudi Arabia:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Saudi Arabia about the use of the death penalty against
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made this year to the government of Saudi Arabia regarding the use of beheading and crucifixion as criminal punishments. [HL1355]