News ID: 109918
Publish Date : 09 December 2022 - 21:59
‘Tailoring Words to Suit Barbaric Regime’

British Minister’s U-Turn on Saudi Torture Comments Sparks Criticism

LONDON (Middle East Eye) – British MPs have called on the government to provide an explanation in parliament after a Foreign Office minister’s claim that Saudi Arabia “abhorrently” tortured a death row inmate was struck from the parliamentary record.
“If there is evidence that the Foreign Office now has that shows that what the minister then said is incorrect, there is a mechanism for them to come to the chamber and explain why the mistake was made,” Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said on Thursday.
“Surely, that would be a more appropriate way to proceed.”
David Rutley, Foreign Office minister for the Americas and the Caribbean appointed in October, told MPs last week that Hussein Abo al-Kheir, a 57-year-old Jordanian man at risk of imminent execution in Saudi Arabia, had “clearly” been tortured.
“We find that abhorrent and we raised that issue at the highest level and will continue to do so not just in his case, but in other cases where that might be happening as well,” Rutley said.
Four days later, according to Hansard, Rutley said “an error” had been identified in his comments and that he should have described Kheir’s torture as “alleged”.
Speaking in an International Human Rights Day debate on Thursday, several MPs criticized the change in the record and cast doubt that it was a correction of fact, particularly following reports that the Saudi government pressed for the alteration.
Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “It wasn’t correcting the record at all. He was withdrawing his comment on Saudi Arabia and whether the gentlemen concerned had been tortured, which all the evidence shows he was.”
“What I fear has happened is that basically they’ve been told off by the Saudi government and they’ve decided that the Saudi government has more say in this than we do and I think that’s nonsense,” he added.
“I’m guessing the Saudis must be laughing their way to the end of the week.”
Labour MP Andy Slaughter said the revision was a “perfect example” of the challenges facing British politicians who want to take action on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. “The government adopts double standards,” he said.
Rutley’s changes, he added, are “not a ministerial correction”.
“That is tailoring your words to suit a barbaric regime.”