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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 21:41 GMT 22:41 UK
UK accuses Saudis of torture

By Barnaby Mason
BBC diplomatic correspondent

The UK Government's annual report on human rights around the world has been especially critical of Saudi Arabia.

British governments have always handled Saudi Arabia with kid gloves, partly because it is such an important market for British arms exports.

Sandy Mitchell shown on Saudi television confessing to a car bombing
Briton Sandy Mitchell said the Saudis tortured him
You do not hear British diplomats saying, as this report does, that there are credible, specific reports of the use of torture by the Saudi authorities to obtain confessions.

Several British men accused of bomb attacks and imprisoned for two years in Saudi Arabia say they were tortured; the Saudis deny it.

Last year's Foreign Office report on human rights made only a passing reference to torture.

This year's quotes at some length from an EU statement last March, which also deplored cruel and inhuman punishments in Saudi Arabia, arbitrary and incommunicado detention and the lack of legal representation for defendants.

Executions

The British Government report expresses deep concern at what it calls Saudi discrimination against women, foreigners, non-Muslims and non-Sunni Muslims, and about restrictions on the freedom of expression and worship.

The report says about 46 people are believed to have been executed in Saudi Arabia during 2002.

Asked about the markedly more critical tone, British officials said that the longer section on Saudi Arabia was a response to a request for more detail from the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee.

They also noted that the Saudi authorities had allowed several visits related to human rights by United Nations representatives and others - so more was coming to light.

The report also criticises abuses in a number of countries, including Burma, Zimbabwe, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China.

But it highlights a dramatically changed situation in Iraq, and improvements in south-east Europe, Turkey and Kenya.




SEE ALSO:
Scot tells of Saudi 'torture'
08 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Saudis deny torture claim
17 Aug 03  |  UK
Timeline: British 'bombs' case
14 May 03  |  Middle East
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
15 Sep 03  |  Country profiles


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