Tim Farron says UK Government should challenge Saudis over executions and human rights

Tim Farron went on Sky News yesterday to describe the execution of 47 people in Saudi Arabia as both “morally wrong and politically foolish” and to criticise the UK Government for being too soft on the Saudis and not calling them out for their appalling human rights record.

I remember being very proud when one of the first big things Vince Cable did as acting leader back in 2007 was to boycott the state visit of the Saudi King. I was not so chuffed last year when there was a chorus of silence from Liberal Democrats when flags were flown at half mast following the death of the Saudi King.

So, it’s good to see Tim Farron slamming the Saudis for their actions and the UK Government for being too soft on them. I’m also interested that he made the point that the relationships between the two governments benefit the most powerful people in both countries but don’t do much for those who aren’t well off. Watch the whole thing here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Jan '16 - 12:01pm

    The executions are another reason why the UK should get back to a simpler pro democracy foreign policy where we support nations with a similar ideology to ourselves.

    Of course, some countries don’t want democracy, but consent of the public needs to be the minimum requirement.

    I sometimes stand up for Saudi Arabia, only because I think the human rights abuses of the likes of Iran are paid leas scrutiny on social media because the far left is anti western and Saudi Arabia is friendly with the west. In some ways. I also think people retweet sectarian propaganda without realising some of the motives behind it.

  • Edddie the Left overwhelmingly campaigns against human rights abuses. The reason Saudi Arabia seems singled out is because it’s easier to effect a change in policy. As our governments are already critical of and has less dealings states like Iran there is less that can be done to change policy. As for the Far Left 1) they barely exist outside of the fevered indignations of our press and right wing commentators and 2) they tend to be against executions anyway, Where as you can go onto the comment sections of our Daily Newspapers and find many allegedly moderate right wingers supporting all manner of atrocities from polices brutality to executions to bombing campaigns. Plus until recently it was common for the security forces to place even mainstream left wing and liberal activists as well as some politicians under surveillance in Britain! So I would argue that it is imperative that we challenge the mainstream Right of British politics who routinely abuse power rather than pretending that teeny tiny numbers of Marxists are a huge threat.
    What I find disturbing is the ease with which trying to highlight poor policies and dodgy dealings is too often being portrayed as being “anti-west” rather than being against the passive acceptance of the world view of the Right.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 3rd Jan '16 - 2:13pm

    The Saudi regime is far more dangerous to our society and weaker human rights than either Assad in Syria, the Ayatollah in Iran or any other middle Eastern country. The point about the 47 executions isn’t just the death penalty, as many, but declining number of other countries also still do this.
    The point is that amongst the 47 executions, which were apparently violent AL-Qaeda operatives, there was 1 very prominent minority religious figure, who avoided violence but rallied people to call for greater equal rights and a change to more democratic governance.
    The Shia cleric al-Nimr expressly avoided allying his protests with Iran, as called for better governance in his country and not by the Saudi royal family. His execution was for impertinence, as a ‘heretic’. The Saudis show their radical vanguard spawn, ISIS and AL-Qaeda, that they don’t mess on home ground or else be executed, but they’ll continue to defend their common Wahabist flame as the principal authority on Islam by executing the Shia religious leader.

    @ Eddie: If you don’t mind me asking, isn’t the reason that you ‘Sometimes stand up for SA’ because you may know people happy to take the Saudi Dinar, loving the high salaries and expat lifestyle of servants & swimming pools, and perhaps feel that to question them- just as when some Brits were very happy to take the Apartheid-era Rand- is by the ‘far left’?

    The Saudi family are grateful to our government because 90 years ago we put its regime in control of 2 of the 3 holiest sites in Islam. We didn’t know then that the new “Kingdom” under our patronage had much oil, or have much interest in their religion other than know they hated traditional imperial muslim rulers of cosmopolitan societies.

    Conversely, with Iran, from that same period, the British government for decades actively betrayed this country of immense cultural heritage by encroaching and undermined its society for exclusively our own interests, on its Oil and strategic location by India. We twice staged coups there and trashed their elected assemblies to set up our own puppet autocrat. I’m afraid it’s not simply about shouty lefties ignoring Iranian shortcomings on Human Rights.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Jan '16 - 2:26pm

    Hi Tomas and Glenn. My point is best illustrated by the Yemen war. Going by some commentary you would think it was Saudi versus civilians and not much else. The fact that Saudi Arabia got a UN security council resolution to fight the Shia rebels who arguably started it seems to get brushed under the carpet.

    So whether people think “it is easier to affect change” or simply that the west is looking out for our own interests, one thing seems pretty undeniable is that human rights abuses of other countries are not given the same treatment that abuses by Saudi and Israel receive and it looks to me it is because they are pro western. It isn’t even close in some quarters. Look at what Iran is doing in Syria, yet people like Stop the War are very sympathetic to them.

    Of course the debate about the executions shouldn’t just be about what other countries are also doing, but it is part of it when it comes to developing a new policy towards Saudi Arabia.

  • Bravo Tim for taking this stance. I hope you will extend it to other countries in the region with appalling human rights records and to which we are too close. It is important that the protests about these executions continue – if only to discourage further ones when the fuss dies down. Another one hundred or so remain on death row; they would appear to be mainly political protesters and include teenagers.

  • Sadly for Tim the party is never going to get an even break from former ‘left’ voters whilst the voices of people such as Edward Sammon are there to remind them of the Establishment view..its a shame because Tim deserves a better hearing.

  • Eddie,
    There is barely any coverage of Yemen so what’s your point.? My point is very simple. Britain is dominated by a Right Wing worldview and the “far Left” barely has any influence on anything or much say in anything. They’re are a tiny minority with virtually no political power. Now you bring up Stop The War but I don’t see them actively campaigning for military involvement by Iran or Russia. They are simply campaigning to stop our involvement in the war. What you’re doing here conflating being against involvement in a war with supporting war by other nations which is actually requires a logical contortion.
    Personally, I’m against recent damaging radical political developments like regime change as an acceptable practice, think they cause more harm than good and from a military point have been a dismal failure.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Jan '16 - 3:16pm

    Hi people, it’s a good thing we live in a democracy and can debate and vote on these issues. My position is a cautious toughening up on Saudi Arabia, but other countries too. People are free to put forward their positions.


  • Tomas Howard-Jones 3rd Jan '16 - 5:47pm

    I agree with your last post @ 3:16, but not your preceding one at 2:26pm!

    Essentially, I think my difference is that I profoundly dislike sectarian societies, and those who subjugate their minorities, however they justify doing so. I suspect that you don’t share this as an abiding concern.

    But regarding your illustrations & observations:
    1. The Yemen situation is complex, but your “Fact that Saudi Arabia s got a UN security council resolution to fight the Shia rebels1 is incorrect.
    They never did. The Gulf Co-Operation Council, all Sunni-ruled (except Oman, which didn’t agree) went to the UN, and with US backing, got a resolution that “demands that the Houthi rebels “immediately and unconditionally” withdraw forces from government institutions and engage “in good faith” in UN-led peace talks.
    The Shia Houthis didn’t do this, and Saudi Arabia then summoned all Sunni-led Arab countries to partake as a ‘coalition’ to oust the Houthi govt and reinstate Hada as the president. Yemen is c. 55% Sunni, 45% Shia.

    2. I, for one, am very happy that Iran, and Hezbollah, are involved in Syria. Despite the bad aspects of Assad’s rule, only the naive would seriously believe that the end of his or Baathist rule would stop the sort of Human Rights violations (actually no worse than most of the region) before the ‘Arab Spring’.
    Thank goodness that someone is helping the Assad forces on the ground stop the spread of genocidal islamists. Druze, Alawites, Christians and Secular Syrians aren’t as worried about Iranian and Hezbollah fighters helping the regime.
    I’m very aware that the Israeli govt strategically has no interest in successful, strong, secular or multifaith neighbours in Syria and Lebanon which encompass and reflect a large part of the Palestinian diaspora. (neither does Saudi Arabia, but for different reasons) It would much rather they remain weak basketcases shunned by the west and plagued by religious extremism, if they don’t accept Israeli or Saudi Hegemony.

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Jan '16 - 12:10am

    Hi Tomas, sorry for asserting my opinion was a fact, I thought it was. I’m not an expert on international law. Going by commentary I just assumed that the UN resolution also approved the use of force by the Saudi-led coalition, but not the indiscriminate use of force.

    I do think subjugating minorities is an abiding concern, but ultimately I think leaders should be decided via elections. I am in favour of self-defence for minorities, however.


  • Tim well done !!! But two more words first , RAIF BADAWI !!!!!!!!!!NO one with the exception in this country of our terrific Lord Avebury , is saying or doing enough about this Liberal example to all , whose plight should be at the top of any international priority list. The above thread misses the point. Eddie Sammon is not the problem . No need to single out a good and decent colleague like him when we are ignoring or doing very little about the evil in our midst , which is imprisoning and executing . Eddie is not supporting that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Jan '16 - 6:41pm

    Thanks Lorenzo. I’m not a colleague, just a commenter, but most of the time I am a Lib Dem voter.

  • Well that s a colleague I think , Eddie , and you make a collegiate input here ,it does nt matter whether everyone agrees , it s that respect that s important , and you have a good level of that , you should join !

  • Thank you Jayne Mansfield for taking up my point about Raif Badawi , who , as Liberals we need , as a party , to say more about , he s only in prison for his Liberal blog !!!!!!!!

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