London: Of nearly a billion pounds in arms sales to ‘unfree’ regimes in 2015, the UK poured £928 million worth of military kit into theocratic Saudi Arabia, despite its atrocious human rights record, it has emerged.
According to data from HM Customs and Revenue (HMRC), accessed by the Daily Mirror, the UK made a killing by selling weapons and military equipment to the oil-rich Gulf state.
This was despite worldwide horror at the country’s execution of minors, among other human rights abuses.
Saudi Arabia features prominently on the annual ‘Freedom in the World’ study carried out by the think tank Freedom House.
Other countries on the list, to which the UK sells arms, are the United Arab Emirates and Thailand.
Freedom House’s 2015 study said the political situation in Saudi Arabia is sliding further into authoritarianism. The country “tightened restrictions on dissent and freedom of speech in 2014, and intensified criminal penalties for religious beliefs that veer too far from official state orthodoxy.”
The human rights NGO Reprieve reported on Tuesday that the Saudi regime had carried out 82 executions already and looked set to double the 2015 tally.
At the same time UK relations with Saudi Arabia drew criticism from Crispin Blunt, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, after it was alleged in a report by the committee that Britain had downgraded human rights as a priority in international relations.
He told the Mail on Tuesday the Foreign Office’s (FCO) “undermining” of otherwise “excellent human rights work” needs to be “remedied.”
“We recommend that the FCO is more mindful of the perceptions it creates at ministerial level, especially when other interests are engaged such as prosperity and security, as is the case with China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” the study argues.