Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Time for Britain to speak up

by Christoph Wilcke from The Guardian

Saudi Arabia's strategic and commercial importance to the UK has until now silenced criticism the kingdom's internal affairs by British leaders. Earlier this year the UK government dropped its enquiry into fraud in the al-Yamamah arms sale to Saudi Arabia by BAE citing potential damage to the UK's "national security and our highest priority foreign policy objectives in the Middle East." ... When pressed, UK officials say there has been progress on political reform in Saudi Arabia over recent years. However, reform has been more cosmetic than real. The media is more outspoken, but no law or court protects journalists fired or imprisoned for their work. Women are more visible in public life, but still carry a yellow card with their male guardian's permission for travel. The government even allowed Human Rights Watch researchers into the country last year for the first time, but then blocked access to prisons and courts.

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