Standing against Britain’s sickening complicity over the crucifixion of a Saudi child

Labour has successfully proposed a European Parliament resolution calling for Ali Mohammed al-Nimr to be pardoned


One of the clearest signals from Labour since Hilary Benn became shadow foreign secretary and Jeremy Corbyn party leader is that of renewed internationalism.

There is no doubt that Labour is demonstrating a clear resolve to expose double standards where David Cameron pursues dealings with other governments by turning a blind eye to the violation of human rights.

Labour will not ourselves be complicit in British complicity to rights abuse. Such is the case of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr.

Ali is the young man who was arrested whilst taking part in an Arab Spring democracy protest in Saudi Arabia. He faces execution through beheading and crucifixion, in the case movingly cited by Jeremy himself in his party conference speech last month.

This week, David Cameron was forced to admit on television that he had not personally intervened in the case, as Jeremy had challenged to him to do.

Cameron could not justify why Britain had made an explicit deal with the Saudis, for the two countries to vote for eachother in the election to the UN Human Rights Council.

Nor has our Tory prime minister responded to Labour pressure to withdraw a bid from our own Ministry of Justice to work for the very same Saudi Prison Service which is responsible for Ali’s impending execution.

Now that’s what I call complicity.

So today Labour ratcheted up the pressure – on our government and on the Saudis – by successfully proposing a European Parliament resolution calling for Ali to be pardoned.

I said it was sickening for my own country to be complicit in the case.

On behalf of Labour MEPs, I pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s election to the Human Rights Council led to it chairing the council’s panel of experts, despite the use of the death penalty against juveniles being explicitly prohibited by the Gulf state’s signature of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A European Parliament vote last year, also thanks to Labour pressure, had insisted that counter-terrorism cooperation between the European Union and the Saudis should be subject to human rights safeguards.

Yet Ali has been convicted as a terrorist, despite all reports suggesting that there is no evidence to support the claim, that a confession was forced out of him through torture and with his court appeal having taken place in secret.

His biggest crime is probably only that he is the nephew of a Shia cleric, who is himself a prominent dissident against the country’s ruling Sunni royal family.

Ali also had the temerity to teach first aid, ironic given that doctors have been barred from treating him for his suffering in prison.

Despite all of this, David Cameron was happy to justify his position on the case this week, precisely by citing counter-terrorism cooperation with Britain.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the world has surely learnt the lesson that long-term success in the fight against terrorism can only be achieved by upholding human rights, not in their violation.

But not according to British Conservatives.

I was happy to say that we want good relations with the Saudis, and fully accept that some diplomatic messages can be more effectively delivered in private.

But standards must be respected, and the balance is certainly wrong in this case, with Cameron confessing he has not made the representations asked of him, at all.

The victim at the heart of all of this was a typical seventeen-year-old boy who liked clothes, cars, his blackberry phone and hanging around with friends.

Labour will keep up the pressure for his release. Each day, we can only hope that the representations do not come too late. Ali al-Nimr was a boy. Let him be a man.

Richard Howitt MEP is Labour spokesperson on Foreign Affairs in the European Parliament, and chair of parliament’s Working Group on the Middle East and North Africa

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18 Responses to “Standing against Britain’s sickening complicity over the crucifixion of a Saudi child”

  1. Barry Hearth

    Saudi Arabia has “threatened those who criticise their human rights violations by saying we will govern as we see fit”! They mean as their royal family see fit, and don’t try to interfere in their internal affairs……..EVER.
    Externally they are thought to be the driving force behind I S, certainly they are getting bag fulls of money from somewhere and the west watched as the Kurds fought with primitive weapons and again as Turkey now bomb them. Meantime, blame it all on Russia.

  2. steroflex

    Any chance of a hand-out to the Rosmini Centre Wisbech where we have, at the moment, just two lorry boys from Calais (both under Herts Social Services) and about 17 immigrants who we are teaching English for free? (We are all volunteer teachers.)
    We would love some text books, and possibly a laptop and projector…
    Yes? Please contact Anita.

  3. Chris Kitcher

    But no one should expect any form of humanitarian assistance from our own Nazi government. Camorons Tories are racist cruel and without any semblance of humanity, just like the Nazis before WW2.


    The Saudis have always did their own thing who can stop them? Do we invade! How anyone can suggest that Cameron conspired to have an alleged criminal executed in Saudi must have their head up their arse. No wonder the left is a joke and becoming a farce.

  5. Barry Hearth


    I’m guessing that you ran out of English language when you got to that point.

  6. Paul 保羅 باول Billanie

    The thing that gets me most about all this is that nobody (or no reports I have seen) in the UN tried to stop SA from a seat on human rights. You would have thought there would have been a huge storm over it but strangely enough not a peep.

  7. Keith M

    It’s the oil silly.

  8. Nigel Passmore

    go fuck yourself .

  9. Cole

    Actually, it’s the arms sales. We don’t buy much oil from them – but your bigger point is right.

  10. Woo11

    This young man – child – has been in the media for some time, or rather the draconian sentence passed on him has been. The fact that the Prime Minister has done nothing to raise it with the Saudi ruling family, and the fact that the British Gvt is working with the Saudi prison service, and the fact that they voted for each other on, of all things, the UN Human Rights Committee is complicity in the act of obtaining alleged “confession” under torture and the proposed act to behead and then crucify this boy. The word used is COMPLICIT not “conspired” as you say. Complicit meaning: ‘the state of being involved with others in an illegal activity or wrongdoing’

  11. Woo11

    Sorry Anita, I’m not in Herts, but in London otherwise I could let you have some books – not “how to learn English” books, but books in English. I hope someone helps you, how about getting in touch with CalAid – they have been collecting a lot of donations of clothing and tents and the like, books were not asked for by them but they may know of a source Good luck in your work, which is very kind.

  12. Woo11

    Also, I dont know whether resources like this is of any use? Or the free worksheets and pdfs on line, of course you would need a photocopier…and a lap top to access the online help…Just a thought


    British Colonialist law is no longer prelevant anywhere in the Middle East.

  14. Woo11

    so now you are changing your tack…having failed on the “conspired” bit suddenly on to colonialism! the word, for the last time, is complicit


    No change at all just reality in the Middle East. They have their laws. None of our business unless they affect our business.

  16. Woo11

    13/10/15 Reprieve has just announced the following :
    ‘The UK government has today announced that it will drop its bid to provide services to the Saudi prison system.
    With two juveniles at imminent risk of execution by the Saudi authorities, this decision could not have come soon enough….’ The pressure was worth it. Ali Mohammed al-Nimr may still, at any time, be executed, but this will send a message. There is also another juvenile sentenced to death according to Reprieve.

  17. Derek Lynas

    CRUCIFIXION! What century are these people living in?
    We don’t need their ‘bloody’ oil.

  18. Esmee Phillips

    I agree. British foreign policy should be decided purely on what is expedient for the British, not on sob stories of dubious provenance.

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