29 Jun Court action launched challenging UK-Saudi Prisons deal
A High Court challenge was launched today against the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for selling its services to the Saudi Government. The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) is challenging the legality of the MOJ’s decision to bid for a contract to provide support through its commercial arm Just Solutions International (JSi) to Saudi Arabia’s Prison and Probation Service.
The bid has been the subject of widespread criticism and there have been calls for the MOJ to pull out of it. The MOJ is refusing to release any information on the deal.
An investigation last year revealed the atrocious and inhumane conditions present in Saudi prisons. A video showed inmates being forced to sleep in cramped conditions almost on top of each other.
The abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia is well documented with scores of people being arbitrarily arrested, imprisoned and tortured every year. There is currently an international outcry for the release of Raif Badawi, an activist that was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes merely for advocating for freedom of expression through a blog.
Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors (DPG) are acting for GCHR. Adam Hundt, a partner at DPG, stated:
“It is surprising that JSi’s activities have taken place shrouded in secrecy, and without parliamentary debate or approval. If the UK is to sell its public services to regimes that behead people for sorcery, stone women to death and flog people for expressing pro-democracy views, then one would expect Parliament to be consulted and given the opportunity to impose appropriate parameters on such activities.”
Melanie Gingell of GCHR stated:
“By providing services to the Saudi prison and probation service the UK is lending legitimacy and indirectly supporting such abuses. It is hypocritical of the government to publicly condemn barbarity such as is meted out to Raif Badawi, while at the same time implicitly condoning such activities by bidding to provide services on a commercial basis to those who perpetrate the abuses.”
GCHR are looking to cover the costs of the case by crowd-funding, and have set up a webpage through which donations can be made (gofundme.com/saudiprisons).