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Saudi Arabia and Egypt

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL4062, tabled on 12 January 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Saudi Arabia about the public flogging of a citizen who professed his atheism, and to the government of Egypt about the imprisonment of a citizen for professing atheism; and what assessment they have made of how such punishments may be reconciled with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Answered on

26 January 2015

We are seriously concerned by Raif Badawi’s case. The UK condemns the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment in all circumstances. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond) has raised the matter with the Saudi Ambassador. We have previously raised the case at a senior level with the Saudi authorities.

The UK is a strong supporter of freedom of expression around the world. We believe that people must be allowed to freely discuss and debate issues, peacefully challenge their governments, exercise the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and speak out against violations of human rights wherever they occur.

In Egypt, our Embassy in Cairo closely monitors cases where freedom of expression is threatened. I met the Egyptian Deputy Assistant Minister for Human Rights on 14 January. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers have been clear throughout recent events in Egypt that the freedom of religious belief needs to be protected. We deplore all discrimination against religious minorities and constraints on their freedom to practise what they believe.

We believe, as article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and that this right includes freedom to change one’s religion or belief. Any action to punish an individual for their faith or belief is not compatible with article 18.