Emily Thornberry right to criticise UK Gulf support – Reprieve

September 25, 2017

Image of Theresa May and Saudi Arabian officials

The Shadow Foreign Secretary has used her speech to Labour’s annual conference to call for a “revolution of values” in UK foreign policy, including an overhaul of the way security assistance is provided to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The speech by Emily Thornberry MP comes after the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, signed a security agreement with Saudi Arabia that appeared to promise further training for Saudi security forces – despite their use of torture and the death penalty.

Human rights organisation Reprieve has raised concerns that existing UK security assistance to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – including the training of police in both countries – could contribute to the use of torture and the death penalty against peaceful protesters. Several protesters, including juveniles, face imminent execution in the two Gulf states.

In 2016, documents from the College of Policing, obtained by Reprieve, revealed the UK was training Saudi police in digital forensics skills that the College feared could be “used to identify individuals who later go on to be tortured”. The training was carried out without safeguards, it later emerged.

Commenting, Maya Foa – Director of Reprieve – said:

“Emily Thornberry is right that Theresa May has fallen silent in the face of grave abuses by the Bahraini government and other regimes. Rather than condemn abuses, UK ministers have provided generous training and support to repressive security forces in the Gulf – despite a rise in executions, and an ever-worsening crackdown on protests. If we are to prevent taxpayers’ money from enabling rights violations like these, UK security assistance overseas should be subjected to stronger human rights conditions and proper parliamentary scrutiny.”


Notes to Editors:

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: media@reprieve.org.uk or +44 (0) 207 553 8140.