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Bring Raif Badawi home to his family
13 November 2014
Raif Badawi was jailed for 10 years and sentenced to 1,000 lashes after starting an online forum for social and political debate in Saudi Arabia. Demand his immediate release – write to the King of Saudi Arabia today.
Join Amnesty International‘s global letter writing marathon, Write for Rights 2014.
From daily The Guardian in Britain:
Ministry of Justice bids for contract with Saudi prison service
Emma Graham-Harrison and David Batty
Sunday 25 January 2015 08.29 GMT
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is hoping to profit from selling its expertise to the prison service in Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for public beheadings, floggings, amputations and courts that regularly violate human rights.
A new commercial arm of the UK justice ministry, staffed by civil servants, has bid for a £5.9m contract in Saudi Arabia. Just Solutions international (JSi) will soon start setting up a probation service in Macedonia, and is also in the running to build a prison in Oman.
Human rights groups have raised concerns about the MoJ working so closely with a regime currently under scrutiny over the botched execution of a woman who died protesting her innocence and the harsh punishment meted out to a liberal blogger.
Allan Hogarth, Amnesty’s UK head of policy and government affairs, said: “Amnesty has serious concerns about Saudi Arabia’s justice system, given its use of the death penalty, the prevalence of torture in detention, and its use of cruel and degrading punishment.
“So we need to know – how is the MoJ’s scheme going to help improve the situation?”
The ministry said that all JSi projects had to be signed off by the Foreign Office and the local embassy after an evaluation that covered human rights, but declined to provide further details on the grounds that the project was “commercially sensitive”.
A spokesman said full details of the contract, including human rights safeguards, will be made public if JSi is successful, although the organisation’s website does not carry details of any previous deals won by it.
The JSi bid was featured in a December report to parliament that also gave details of a memorandum of understanding on judicial cooperation signed by the UK and Saudi Arabian justice ministers in Riyadh in September.
It said the contract would be “to conduct a training needs analysis across all the learning and development programmes within the Saudi Arabian prison service”.
Like all the overseas projects run by JSi, it aims to raise funds for the National Offender Management Service, which runs prisons and probation services in England and Wales.
Saudi Arabia’s justice system has faced international outcry since the activist Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for advocating freedom of expression. He has had only 50 lashes so far, and judges have twice delayed the next round of punishment after medical assessements.
This and the botched execution are just two cases among many that make working with the Saudi Arabian justice system extremely challenging, human rights groups have said. They have called for greater transparency about both the way the system works and the safeguards in place to prevent miscarriages of justice.
“Quiet training programmes are not a substitute for active British engagement with the Saudi authorities on human rights abuses in the justice system,” said Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “We find that pressure works better when Saudi abuses are in the international spotlight. They don’t usually tend to back down because someone has a private conversation. Public advocacy is necessary.”
It is also unclear how much money JSi will be able to earn for the justice ministry, or whether that income will come at the expense of other services, as there are no public accounts for the organisation.
The report to parliament said that JSi would generate more than half a million pounds “in revenue” for the government, but gave no details of the organisation’s outgoings.
A spokesman for the MoJ refused to clarify whether staff working at JSi had been assigned from other jobs, and if so, whether they were replaced. He also declined to say whether any of the staff had commercial experience.
In its disgusting fawning and hypocrisy, little could top the outpouring of praise from the major imperialist powers in response to the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who died Friday at age 90. Tributes have poured in from governments around the world. In London, the British government flew flags at half-mast at government buildings and at Buckingham Palace, prior to a trip by Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron to Saudi Arabia over the weekend: here.
Saudi preacher who ‘raped and tortured’ his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying ‘blood money’. Local reports say public anger over the settlement is growing across Saudi Arabia: here.