Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Fourth Report

3  Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia and the 'War against Terrorism'


67. Saudi Arabia came under great scrutiny following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Fifteen of the nineteen suicide aeroplane hijackers were Saudi citizens. In the aftermath of the attacks, the country's rulers, religious beliefs, social customs and education system came under examination as the Kingdom came to be widely portrayed as a breeding ground for terrorism. Members of the Committee visited Saudi Arabia in November 2005, and held meetings with government ministers, the ruling family as well as members of the business community and civil society.


Enhanced threat

68. Since the mid-1990s, there have been periodic violent attacks against foreign and state interests in Saudi Arabia. However, the violence reached a new level in 2003. On 12 May 2003, attacks on Western housing compounds in Riyadh killed 35 people; and on 8 November 2003, 17 people, most of them expatriate workers from Arab countries, were killed in a suicide attack on a residential compound in Riyadh. The following months saw a series of deadly bombings and shoot-outs as militants attacked expatriate workers and the Saudi police. In June 2004, three gun attacks in Riyadh left two Americans and a BBC cameraman dead, and BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner seriously wounded. The same week, a US engineer was abducted and beheaded.[98] More recently, in February 2006, the Saudi authorities announced that they had foiled a suicide attack on a major oil-processing plant at Abqaiq—the first direct assault on Saudi oil production.[99]

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

69. The identity and affiliation of the militants is the subject of some speculation. The most active appear to be linked to the al Qaeda network. However, little is known about the organisational structure or membership of the 'al Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula'. For example, it is not known if it is a coherent organisation as opposed to a network of autonomous cells. There is also no reliable estimate of the number of individuals operating in Saudi Arabia; some analysts speculate that there are no more than 1,000-2,000, while others suggest much higher or lower figures.[100] Frank Gardner told the Committee that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula "is relatively small. They have very grand ideas. They have an online magazine, Al-Batar, where they have issued advice and instructions to their followers on how to ambush princes and kidnap people. They are a small but extremely bloodthirsty organisation."[101]

70. Describing the links between the international al Qaeda leadership and cells in Saudi Arabia, Frank Gardner told us:

    The nexus is weaker than it was. There was an intercept by Western intelligence collectively. I do not know whether it was the NSA or GCHQ, but there was an intercept in January 2003—this is public knowledge—of a communication from the hills of Waziristan in Pakistan, where some of al Qaeda's fugitive leadership were hiding out and still are, and their followers in Saudi Arabia. That communication said: "It is time to start the insurgency." The Saudi would-be insurgents said, "Hang on, we are not ready yet; we are not organised yet; we can get the weapons, but we are not ready." They said: "No, this is an order; you have got to start." Four months later they drove three suicide truck bombs into the compounds in Riyadh and killed 35 people, so it began.[102]

71. On 19 October 2005, Professor Paul Wilkinson, Professor of International Relations and Chair of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews, told the Committee about al Qaeda's goals in Saudi Arabia: "they would undoubtedly like to undermine the royal family and change the regime radically… Remember that al Qaeda's leader is a dedicated enemy of the royal family. He was expelled by the royal family, and he feels bitter that the American forces were allowed to operate near the holy cities, which was one of the reasons he gave for starting al Qaeda in the first place."[103] Frank Gardner expanded on this:

    Originally, when Osama Bin Laden was setting up in Afghanistan, his big beef was with the presence of US uniformed forces in Saudi Arabia, in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques. He objected to the presence of 5,000 US Airforce men and women at Prince Sultan Air Base; and they were there from 1990 right the way through to late 2003. They have gone, so that particular aim is no longer there. There are those who support al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, who consider that their entire peninsula needs to be cleansed of non-believers, of "Kuffar", as they call them. I think that that was certainly the aim of the people who attacked us. Here was a chance to have a pop at some Westerners, scare others into leaving the country, and embarrass the Saudi Government. Ultimately they want to turn the Saudi Kingdom into something that is much more approaching a theocratic Islamist state. They do want to get rid of the al-Sauds. They have different reasons for this. In some cases, it is economic frustration; in some cases it is political frustration.[104]

72. Saudi Arabia's large pool of unemployed youth and the prevalence of extremist religious beliefs create a natural constituency for militant groups. Professor Wilkinson referred to this problem when he told us that despite the improving response to terrorism by the Saudi authorities, there remains the "problem of many potential supporters and sympathisers within their own society."[105] Although polls suggest popular respect for Osama bin Laden, they also indicate that the vast majority of Saudis would not support him or his organisation as political leaders. Anecdotal evidence suggests a general revulsion at acts of violence, especially when perpetrated against Saudis.[106] According to some analysts, Saudis support the militants' rhetoric, particularly their criticism of the USA and corrupt Arab regimes, but the violence in Saudi Arabia has aroused fear rather than admiration. Speaking about popular support for al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, Frank Gardner told the Committee: "To a limited degree there is a kind of wellspring of anger, be it directed against the Americans because of what is going on in Iraq, or be it directed against the al-Saud in some cases. The numbers are hard to put a figure on."[107] However, he also made the point that the majority of the population is staunchly opposed to violence: "Generally, the Saudi population is very anti-terrorism, and the Saudi authorities have been able to reach out to them."[108]

73. The threat of terrorism does not come only from Saudi citizens. There has been some surprise in Saudi Arabia over the presence in the country of jihadis from around the world:

    The Saudi authorities… were quite surprised and shocked to find that at a big shoot-out they had at a place called al-Ras in April [2005], … they found that they had killed in the shoot-out somebody called Abdul Karim Majati, who was a Moroccan. They did not even know he was in the country. He was instrumental in the Casablanca bombings of May 2003 in Morocco, and is thought to quite possibly have had a hand in the Madrid bombings, through connections to Moroccan extremists… it is making them wonder how many other international jihadis might have come back to Saudi Arabia and be hiding out there. [109]

Iraqi 'bleed-back'

74. There is concern that the violence in Iraq is exacerbating the terrorist problem in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. The two countries have a long and porous border and it is feared that jihadis are crossing between the two countries. Frank Gardner told us:

    [T]here is a very ominous dark cloud on the horizon, and that is what the CIA refer to as "bleed-back", the return of militants who have gone to fight in Iraq who have come back to Saudi Arabia; and there is an organisation for this, a pipeline to bring them back. The latest estimate I saw for the number of Saudi Mujahideen, as they call themselves, who have gone to fight the coalition and the Iraqi Government in Iraq, is about 350. I suspect that that is probably an underestimate and that the numbers are probably bigger than that. Obviously, some of these people do not come back. They think they are going to Paradise, and blow themselves up. However, there are those who are coming back, and there are indications that a recent shoot-out in Dammam in Eastern Province involved some Saudi militants who had come back from Iraq. Remember that these are people who are going to come back utterly brutalised, with all sense of humanity, as we would know it, dissipated. These are people who have watched beheadings first-hand, and possibly have even done them themselves.[110]

This problem was highlighted by the capture in March 2006 by the Iraqi authorities of a man suspected of involvement in an attempted suicide attack on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia. The suspect is reported to have been arrested on the desert border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia and is believed to have been heading to Mosul, in northern Iraq.[111]

75. We heard about this problem during our visit to Riyadh. The Saudi authorities are deeply concerned about bleed-back and would like to see better intelligence in Iraq as well as improved border control. We heard that around 900 people are believed to be operationally active in Iraq and ready to conduct operations in Saudi Arabia. Neil Partrick, Senior Analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, wrote to us about Saudi frustration over this: "Officials keenly wish that the Iraqi/coalition side of the border could be more effectively policed to prevent the very 'wash-back' that others have effectively encouraged."[112]

76. We also heard from our Saudi interlocutors about the use that is made of the situation in Iraq for propaganda purposes. In particular, we heard concern over the use of recorded attacks in Iraq as a powerful recruitment tool. The Saudis seek to counter this propaganda by showing images of the impact of terrorism, for example by broadcasting and publishing images of the carnage caused by suicide attacks.

77. We conclude that there remains a serious terrorist threat in Saudi Arabia, and that this is directed at both the Saudi authorities and foreign interests.


78. There were initial concerns over the Saudi commitment to the international 'war against terrorism'. Professor Wilkinson told us about this in June 2003: "I think that the Saudi situation is one where al Qaeda has been able to recruit and plant a cell structure and that the Saudi authorities appear to have underestimated this danger."[113] In November 2005, Frank Gardner reiterated this point to the Committee: "I do not think that the Saudi authorities had taken al Qaeda seriously… Prince Naif, the Interior Minister, had boasted and said: "We do not have any al Qaeda sleeper cells here; if we did, we would have woken them up long ago." There was an element of "head in the sand"; al Qaeda was somebody else's problem."[114] However, this all changed in 2003, when there were a number of devastating terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia.

Security strategy and international cooperation

79. Since the attacks of 2003, Saudi Arabia has turned around its approach towards terrorism and is taking concerted efforts to tackle the problem. In a marked change in rhetoric, King Abdallah vowed to crush the "scourge" of al Qaeda in his first televised interview after becoming monarch. Speaking to US television, he admitted that there remains an extremist threat in Saudi Arabia.[115]

80. Professor Wilkinson told the Committee: "there is no doubt that the Saudi authorities, from a security measures point of view, have really sharpened their efforts against al Qaeda."[116] Speaking after the May 2003 attacks, Frank Gardner reported for Newsnight that the Saudi Authorities were now "on a mission to beat terrorism". He also said that the May bombings had "galvanised" the Saudi authorities and that they were now giving full cooperation on the 'war against terrorism'.[117] Speaking to the Committee, Mr Gardner added that while there will undoubtedly be further terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, the country has taken very credible steps against terrorism. [118]

81. Neil Partrick wrote to us about the Saudi counter-terrorism strategy and the importance of both short and long-term approaches. Neil Partrick told us that Saudi Arabia "continues to pursue a mixture of short term conventional security measures inside the kingdom against terror attacks, and some steps with an eye toward shifting the longer term social and economic conditions in order to tackle the causes of disaffection."[119]

82. Describing the impact of Saudi policy on the ranks of al Qaeda in the Kingdom, Frank Gardner told us:

    They are heavily depleted; they have taken huge losses in the last couple of years, particularly in the last ten months. Their leadership is very fragmented. A lot of the main leaders have been killed in the last two years; for the record, men like Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, Salah Al-Oufi, Yousef Al-Ayeeri and Turki Nasser Al-Dandani. All these men have been killed in the last two years, so a lot of the brains at the top of this organisation are no longer there. However, there are still recruits coming into it.[120]

Professor Paul Wilkinson reiterated this latter point, telling the Committee that while al Qaeda has suffered some severe setbacks with the capture and killing of individuals, this "does not mean that there are no candidates for replacing them—I am sure that they are being replaced—and there are plenty of potential recruits in Saudi Arabia."[121]

83. Given the importance of Saudi production to world oil supplies, there has been concern over the danger of a terrorist attack on the country's oil industry. Al Qaeda would certainly like to wreak havoc on the industry; Osama bin Laden has called for action against oil installations in both Iraq and Saudi Arabia to "put an end to 'the biggest theft in history'."[122] The Saudi authorities have taken particular care to ensure that the industry is protected. Professor Wilkinson told us that security measures for the energy industry are particularly impressive because the authorities recognise how damaging attacks on the energy industry would be to the economy.[123] Frank Gardner reiterated this point: "I have been several times to the oil facilities and they are very well guarded. They would need a light aircraft or something like that, and even then they have got anti-aircraft defences. Last year, to get to Ras Tanura, which is the main loading terminal for Saudi's oil exports to bring them out to the Gulf, I had to pass through six checkpoints, where we were checked very thoroughly. However, where there is a will, there is a way, and it is always possible."[124] Indeed, in February 2006, the Saudi authorities announced that they had foiled an attack on the country's oil industry. A statement published on a website used by Islamic militants in Saudi Arabia said that the attack was part of al Qaeda's campaign to force infidels out of the Arabian Peninsula.[125]

84. Saudi Arabia's security and intelligence cooperation with the international community has improved significantly in recent years. During our visit to the region, we heard that since 2003, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia have developed a very substantial and mutually beneficial counter-terrorism relationship. Frank Gardner told the Committee about Saudi Arabia's commitment to cooperating with the international community on terrorism:

    How reliable a partner is Saudi Arabia? At the moment it is reliable. The co-operation between Saudi Arabia, Britain and the US is intense in the CT field in Saudi Arabia. It has not always been that way, and remember that this is often quite difficult for the Saudis to manage because there will be people at middle and low level who cannot stand the Americans and who do not think that we are much better because we are, in their eyes, crusading, occupying forces, who have gone in to try and re-colonise Iraq. [126]

85. In contrast, there is concern about the low level of regional cooperation. There are a number of areas that would benefit from enhanced regional collaboration, for example work to tackle weapons smuggling, the movement of terrorists and intelligence sharing. For example, Frank Gardner told the Committee that it is very easy for insurgents in Saudi Arabia to get hold of weapons from Yemen or Iraq.[127] During our visit to the region, we heard more about this issue as well as Yemen's role as a traditional route for smuggling arms in the region and concern over the failure to make full use of forensic material in Iraq.

86. King Abdallah has proposed the establishment of an international terrorism centre. However, given the strong reluctance of states to share intelligence multilaterally, this is unlikely to gain support; a regional terrorism centre might be more successful. During our visit we heard a suggestion that the Gulf Cooperation Council-funded Naif Centre could take the lead on a regional counter-terrorism centre, with the potential for a great deal of very good work in this area.

87. We conclude that Saudi Arabia is taking the threat of terrorism very seriously and is providing valuable assistance to the international community in this area. The Kingdom has put in place an effective security-focussed strategy targeting individuals and this has had a forceful impact on the al Qaeda presence in the Kingdom. However, we also conclude that the level of regional cooperation could be significantly improved, and recommend that the Government give assistance in this area, setting out in its response to this Report what steps it is taking. We further recommend that the Government pursue with its Saudi counterparts the possibility of a regional terrorism centre headed by Saudi Arabia.

Financial measures

88. There are ongoing concerns over the channelling of terrorist funding through Saudi Arabia. Professor Wilkinson told the Committee about this: "We know that money is still flowing from wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia despite the Saudi effort to regulate their charities and so on… I think there is more to be done in suppressing the financial assistance that comes from wealthy Saudi supporters of al Qaeda." [128] Frank Gardner expanded on the problem:

    Saudis are generally very generous people… The way it often works is that somebody will literally sign pretty much a blank cheque for what he thinks is a charitable cause —an orphanage in Bosnia, a madrassa in Pakistan, a blind charity somewhere—and the problem has been that in giving this charity Saudis have not been nearly strict enough with themselves in asking questions as to where it is going. A lot of the funds that people thought were going to genuine charitable causes were ending up in the hands of al Qaeda—in Afghanistan in the past.[129]

89. Neil Partrick wrote to us about Saudi efforts to tighten financial regulation:

    Saudi Arabia's central bank (SAMA; the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency) began to initiate legal changes before the FATF [Financial Action Task Force] visit, but, in the wake of the latter's initial recommendations, went further. The monitoring of significant bank deposits and/or transfers is now far more comprehensive, while charitable giving, formerly a key means for transferring monies to armed groups, is much more closely circumscribed, with one notable organisation eventually being prevented from operating… SAMA is more efficient in following financial trails and in limiting the potential for monies to be transferred out of the country for nefarious purposes than a number of other GCC countries' central banks.[130]

90. Nevertheless, there is scepticism over the effectiveness of tackling terrorist funding. Frank Gardner told us:

    The trouble is that you cannot control it completely, and terrorism is cheap—9/11 cost half a million dollars; Madrid cost $50,000. This is nothing; it is peanuts; this is pocket money to some of the people who come to Bayswater in the summer. This is not a lot of money. Personally, I think that the financial war against terrorism is a bit of a red herring. [131]

We discuss this issue in more detail in the chapter on the United Arab Emirates.

Targeting the sources of terrorism

91. In addition to its security driven counter-terrorism strategy, Saudi Arabia has also formulated a longer-term approach targeting the causes of terrorism and the recruitment of terrorists. Frank Gardner told us about Saudi thinking behind this:

    [T]he man who is in charge of the counter-terrorism effort in Saudi Arabia is Prince Muhammed bin Naif, one of the sons of the Interior Minister. He is very highly rated by both Saudis and Western diplomats. He views it that physical measures are less than half the battle. They have got to win over the hearts and minds.[132]

We talked to the Saudi Interior Ministry about this approach. There is a firm recognition in Saudi Arabia that the military and security solution are only part of the answer. The Saudi government has done extensive research into the causes of terrorism, recruitment and training.

92. The Saudi government has sought to use religious authorities to tackle the ideology behind terrorism. Clerics have been encouraged to refute militants' arguments, preaching against the religious rhetoric and explaining in mosques and on television that their acts are breaches of Islam. Religious scholars, some of them known for their conservative views, have issued strongly-worded statements, bolstered by references to the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet, clearly condemning al Qaeda's actions and its attacks on Muslims and non-Muslims.[133] Repentant militants have also appeared on television and Islamist mediators have been brought in. We were told all about these efforts during our visit to the region.

93. Frank Gardner told the Committee about this work: "One thing that the Yemenis have done, which the Saudis are also doing, is to use scholars, experts, people who know the Islamic scriptures inside out, to try and persuade deviants, as they put it—militants—to renounce violence and to turn their back on it and of course to betray some of the people in their organisation. This has had some success."[134] Neil Partrick also wrote to us about these policies and the importance of work "pressing the moral case, backed up by pressure on clerics directly and through more willingness to police their ranks and his success in securing fatwas in which mainstream ulema as well as former jihadis explicitly condemn terrorism." [135]

94. There have also been efforts to reform the education system. Until recently, Saudi religious text books suggested that a good way to show love for God was to treat infidels with contempt. Students learned that communism, secularism and capitalism were forms of apostasy. Such passages have now been purged, albeit with fierce resistance from some of the religious establishment.[136] Frank Gardner told us about these efforts:

    [There are a number of projects underway in Saudi Arabia to try and take the sting out of jihadism to try and make people less suspicious and distrustful of Westerners. I have to say that the state itself has a lot to answer for here, having fostered and allowed an education system for decades that bred this hatred of non-believers, as they call it, particularly of Jews. I have been to every Arab country and have spent much of the last 25 years in the Arab and Islamic world, and it is really only in Saudi Arabia that I have encountered this xenophobia.[137]

95. Shortly after the Committee's visit to Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom hosted a conference of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in the holy city of Mecca. This was a Saudi initiative to promote a more moderate vision of Islam. During the conference, King Abdallah criticised al Qaeda using "Islamically loaded terminology".[138] The conference's final communiqué stated that "Islam is a religion of moderation which rejects bigotry, extremism and fanaticism."[139]

96. Professor Robert Springborg, MBI Al Jaber Chair in Middle East Studies and Director of the London Middle East Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, wrote to us about importance of isolating 'trans-national jihadis' from mainstream Islam:

    Because their views are essentially heretical and because their leadership is not well versed in Islam itself, trans-national jihadis are vulnerable to being isolated from and shunned by other Muslims. This is probably the single area in which facilitation of dialogue about the true nature of Islam and encouragement of Islamic liberals is a useful tool…. [T]rans-national jihadis, the primary target of the war against terrorism, do not enjoy widespread support and what support they do enjoy is in inverse proportion to their distance from any given Muslim population. These jihadis are vulnerable to being isolated from local Muslim populations and the war against terrorism should seek to do just that.[140]

This is clearly mainly a task for Muslim states, such as Saudi Arabia, rather than the international community.

97. During our visit we also heard about the Saudi approach to terrorist suspects and those who have been targeted by terrorist recruiters. While those who have committed crimes are dealt with by the legal system, the authorities seek to 'convert' those who have not yet committed crimes with the help of their families, clerics, mosques, schools and universities. If individuals are released, their families are made responsible for them. The approach appears to be having a good degree of success. Frank Gardner told us about this work. He made the point that the majority of the population is staunchly opposed to violence and that the authorities have tried to use this to put pressure on would-be jihadis:

    They have employed some quite controversial methods. They have talked to the families of militants, and in some cases pulled the families in for questioning, and said: "You put pressure on young Abdullah; bring him back in and talk to him." You could see that as a subtle way of applying pressure or as essentially holding the family to ransom, in a way.[141]

98. The Saudi media is playing a significant role in supporting these counter-terrorism policies. Not only are the devastating and gruesome impact of terrorist attacks broadcast and published, but there is also a high-level of coverage of the issues. Neil Partrick also wrote to us about this: "The messages that are endlessly conveyed on TV adverts, debates, newspaper articles; and in large, often ghoulish, hoardings depicting the after-effects of terror outrages have played their part too in the culture of condemnation of what until recently had seemed to seriously threaten the stability of the country."[142]

99. We conclude that Saudi Arabia is taking very seriously the causes of terrorism and process of extremist recruitment and has conducted valuable research in this area. We further conclude that Saudi Arabia is pursuing crucial long-term policies to tackle the causes of terrorism. We conclude that the United Kingdom could usefully learn from Saudi Arabia's experience in this field, highlighting the two-way nature of cooperation with the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia and reform


100. Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw explicitly linked efforts to counter international terrorism with the spread of democracy. In October 2005, he told us: "I believe that the only way we are going to get relative peace and security across the Middle East is through democracy… [W]e are seeing the beginnings of a movement for democracy which I believe is the only sure way of eliminating terror and alongside that the lack of progress in the Arab countries, which is another cause or contributor to the environment in which terrorism can breed, is through democracy."[143] The FCO's strategy paper 'Active Diplomacy for a Changing World' also links the issues, stating that to make the world safer from global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, it is important to address "the factors which encourage radicalisation and terrorist recruitment at home. These may include social and political alienation, poor governance, conflict and extremist propaganda."[144] Clearly, the linkage between the absence of democracy and terrorism is far from simple. Nevertheless, it is possible that the absence of political representation could feed into the causes of terrorism. Moreover, as Members of the British Parliament we wholeheartedly endorse the spread of democracy. Nevertheless, we admit that the process of democratisation is problematic, as evidenced by the recent election victory of Hamas, a group that continues to espouse the destruction of Israel, and that speedy moves towards reform could have dangerous destabilising effects in some societies.

101. Saudi Arabia is one of the least democratic states in the region. Political parties are banned, the opposition is organised from outside the country and political activists who publicly broach the subject of reform risk being jailed. The King and senior princes dominate the political system. High-ranking members of the royal family hold positions as the most prominent ministers and governors of the main cities and provinces. The Council of Ministers, which is appointed by and responsible to the King, advises on policy formulation and oversees the bureaucracy.

102. There are various well established methods of consultation. The appointed Consultative (Shura) Council advises the King and Council of Ministers. During our visit to Saudi Arabia we met members of the Consultative Council, including members of the its foreign affairs and security committees. We were greatly impressed by the calibre of the members and their work. As a recent Economist Survey on Saudi Arabia noted "It is easy to dismiss this all-appointed body as window-dressing, but even detractors admit that its legislative record is good, and its membership broadly representative of the kingdom's diversity (with the huge proviso that it excludes women)."[145] Nevertheless, the Council is unelected, has only limited powers to make recommendations on legislation and question ministers, and has no budgetary oversight.

103. There are also well-established traditions of access to senior officials, usually at a majlis, or public audience, and the right to petition. However, this tradition is marred by the exclusion of women, who for example are unable to participate in the weekly majlis, where senior members of the royal family listen to the complaints and proposals of Saudi citizens.[146] Although this form of consultation is limited, and often focussed on dispensing largesse rather than influencing policy, it does offer an opportunity for exchange between the country's rulers and their subjects. The King and senior princes are also careful to gain the support of important constituencies for their policies. This has been especially true of the counter-terrorism strategy.

104. Like many countries in the region, Saudi Arabia has come under international pressure to reform. Compared with many of its neighbours, Saudi Arabia has been slow to reform:

  • Oman has a bicameral legislature. Although its 58-seat upper chamber has only advisory powers and is appointed by the Emir, the 83-seat lower chamber is elected by universal suffrage of all Omani men and women over 21 except for members of the military and security forces. It has limited powers to propose legislation. The next elections are scheduled for 2007.[147]
  • Qatar has a 35-seat appointed unicameral Consultative (Shura)Council. Although no legislative elections have been held since 1970, Qatar held two nationwide elections in 1999 and 2003 for a 29-member Central Municipal Council (CMC), which has consultative powers aimed at improving the provision of municipal services. Under the new constitution, which came into force on 9 June 2005, the public would elect by universal suffrage two-thirds (30 members ) of the 45 members of an enlarged Consultative Council and the Emir would appoint the remaining 15 members; preparations are underway for elections in early 2007.
  • Bahrain's bicameral Parliament consists of a Shura Council of 40 members appointed by the Emir and a House of Deputies of 40 members directly elected to serve four-year terms by universal suffrage of men and women. The next election is to be held in September 2006.
  • Kuwait has a 50-seat unicameral National Assembly. Members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The electorate consists of adult males who are not in the military forces, and since 16 May 2005, adult females. All voters must have been citizens for 20 years. Elections were last held on 6 July 2003. The new Emir Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah dissolved Parliament on 19 May 2006 and called for elections to be held a year early.
  • Although the UAE does not have elected bodies, it is pursuing a serious programme of economic liberalisation.

105. US President George Bush's call for democratisation in the Middle East could not have been more relevant to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, his key speech to the National Endowment for Democracy in November 2003 was largely seen as being directed at the Saudi government.[148] However, there have also been domestic calls for change. In 2003 and 2004, reform issues entered the mainstream of debate and conversation, with petitions calling for an independent judiciary, economic reform, social reform and elections to the Consultative Council.[149]


106. The government has responded to calls for reform with a number of political openings. These have included setting up of the National Dialogue and, most recently, holding of municipal elections. In November 2005, Dr Mai Yamani, Associate Fellow of the Middle East Programme at Chatham House, told the Committee about this moves: "In Saudi Arabia they have made some limited, careful steps towards reform, but if you talk about competitive elections, freedom of expression, of assembly, of organisation, reforms of the educational system or the judiciary, they are more serious—and the policy of discrimination, on the basis of religious sect or tribe is still very much visible in the country." [150] Neil Partrick also wrote to us about these reform steps, making the point that while they have been relatively modest by international standards, they have been "quite dramatic" by Saudi standards.[151]

National Dialogue

107. Starting in 2003, the National Dialogue is intended to 'acknowledge' the country's diversity and pluralism. For the first time, Saudis from different religious sects and political orientations were brought together to talk about sensitive issues such as religious differences, education and the causes of Islamic extremism. Some of the discussions have been televised. During our visit to the region we met members of the secretariat of the National Dialogue. We heard about the series of meetings that have been organised and efforts to bring together disparate groups, some of which are considered heretical by the Saudi mainstream. We also heard about the impact that these meetings have had on influencing popular debate in the country.

108. Dr Yamani has criticised the National Dialogue as an "intellectual encounter" divorced from domestic reality: "Dialogue meetings resulted in discussions that have not been legitimised by the religious authorities, so nothing changed in the realities of everyday life. Shi'as still cannot practice their religious rituals, be a witness in court and even work as a butcher."[152] Nevertheless, Dr Yamani also noted that "such gatherings are unprecedented; government and other participants put their relationship to a real test, bringing together groups that have never talked before."[153]

109. Neil Partrick wrote to us with a similarly mixed analysis of the National Dialogue. While the initiative has "proven to be largely a discussion forum on increasingly less pertinent issues", it has also "provided a symbolic inclusiveness which, at its early stages, had seen an important expression of Shia 'acceptability' in the eyes of the regime, underscored by the sight of radical clerics associated in the early 1990s with a militant assertion of an essentially Sunni chauvinism sitting with representatives of the Shia minority… In essence, the National Dialogue has offered a more inclusive approach to the Shia and other minorities, raising the hope rather than providing the guarantee of fairer treatment for them as fellow Muslims."[154]

Municipal elections

110. In 2005, elections for half the seats on Saudi Arabia's 178 municipal councils were held for the first time; the government appointed the remainder of the council members. Popular engagement with the elections was mixed; less than half of eligible voters registered, but there was vigorous campaigning in some areas, especially in Riyadh and the Eastern Province.[155]

111. There was initial ambiguity over whether women would be able to participate in the elections: the wording of the regulations did not specifically exclude women, but it was subsequently announced that women would not be able to vote or stand for election. The reasons given for this were logistical: an insufficient number of women to run women-only registration centres and polling stations, and a shortfall in the number of women holding the photo identity cards required to vote.[156] Women have since been promised that they will be able to vote in the 2009 municipal elections.

112. While a groundbreaking step in Saudi Arabia, the municipal elections have prompted a fair degree of cynicism. Writing in the World Today, Dr Yamani criticised the process: "In accordance with Saudi tradition a prince has been appointed chairman of the general committee overseeing polling. The message here is not one of wider political participation, but rather of continued dominance by the ruling family."[157] She reiterated this point to the Committee in November 2005: "They have had partial municipal elections that we saw in February to April, which were not inclusive. About one-quarter of the male population participated. Half the members were appointed, and the whole female population was excluded." [158] The delay in setting up the councils only fuelled such criticism; it took eight months to publish the regulations governing Council proceedings and the councils were not formed until December 2005.[159]

113. Nevertheless, other analysts have emphasised the importance of the elections as an initial step in the democratisation process. Writing about popular perceptions of the elections, Saudi journalist Rasheed Abou-Alsamh said:

    Many Saudis remain deeply cynical about the powers of the partially elected councils, but this baby step towards democracy has nonetheless given hope to some that they will see elections for the Shura Council, which is currently being expanded from 120 to 150 members, during their lifetimes. They also believe that the municipal elections have opened the door to further reforms, and say it is a door the government will not be able to close again easily.[160]

Continued repression

114. Despite these tentative reform steps and what appears to be a general acknowledgement of the need for reform by the Saudi authorities, reformers continue to be subjected to harassment. This has ranged from official impatience and pressure to refrain from publicising reform demands and the forced cancellation of meetings to stormy reprimands by ministers, arrests and prison sentences.

115. According to Human Rights Watch, the Saudi security forces have violently dispersed gatherings such as the October 2003 demonstrations in Riyadh and other cities, and arrested individuals attempting to protest peacefully. On 12 January 2005, a court in Jeddah affirmed the unofficial ban on public demonstrations by sentencing 15 individuals to prison sentences and lashes for participating in a demonstration in October 2004.[161]

116. In May 2005, a court in Riyadh sentenced three reformers to lengthy prison sentences for circulating a petition that called for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. The charges against the men are reported to have included incitement to unrest, attempting to disturb the peace, rebelling against the ruler, speaking to foreign media and incitement against the Wahhabi school of Islam. The trials were conducted in camera and the defendants' lawyers have faced imprisonment and harassment.[162] In August 2005, King Abdallah pardoned the three men along with their lawyer, who was awaiting trial.

Reform prognosis

117. These mixed signals have prompted varying interpretations of the long-term prospects for reform. A number of members of the royal family have made comments suggesting that they support substantive reform. In 2003, then Crown Prince Abdallah was the first high-ranking official to adopt the expression "expanding political participation". He said that municipal elections would "be the beginning of the Saudi citizens' participation in the political system." For his part, foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal has said that Saudi Arabia "has reached a stage in our development that requires expanding political participation."[163] Speaking to the Committee in October 2005, an FCO witness said: "the government there does appear to be committed to what I think is fair to describe as an evolutionary approach to further democratisation in that country."[164]

118. Some believe that growing domestic and international pressure compelled the royal family implement reforms, but that it has not made a strategic decision to transform the political system. Dr Yamani told the Committee that the limited reform moves were aimed at mollifying international demands for democratic reform: "[W]hen Abdullah, Crown Prince at the time, now King Abdullah, arrived in May to visit President Bush, he said: "You see, we have had the elections. We had the Islamists, but we are controlling and managing the situation. That was very good for the whole talk about reform and democracy in the Middle East. "[165]

119. Others attribute the mixed signals to divisions within ruling circles over the desirability and speed of change. The smooth succession of King Abdallah in August 2005 after the death of his half-brother, King Fahd, prompted speculation that the pace of reform would accelerate. King Abdallah is widely considered to be a reformer and many believe that his succession will give him more authority to push ahead with reform.[166] However, given the tradition of decision-making by consensus in the royal family, there are likely to remain royal brakes on reform.

120. During our visit to Saudi Arabia, we heard optimism that there may be further reform steps in the near future. These include a possible expansion of the powers of the Consultative Council and reform of the judiciary. We were also assured that the reform process is irreversible. However, we were also warned about the risks of reform and were told that the nature and pace of reform must be appropriate to Saudi circumstances. We were told about fears that change could jeopardise social and political cohesion. We heard many times that western-style elections are not a 'miracle solution'. We also heard about the strong conservatism of the Saudi population and its resistance to reform and the danger of democratisation in the absence of the crucial underpinnings of democracy. The point was made that Saudi Arabia has advanced tremendously in the last 20 years and that the process is continuing; the country needs to advance gradually and in stages. Much of the Saudi population remains attached to very conservative religious values, which makes reform in areas such as women's rights and education especially sensitive. From the discussions we had in Saudi Arabia, this factor, more than any other, emerged as the main impediment to reform.

121. Disquiet over the potential consequences of a hurried political opening is not limited to officials, and has also been expressed by members of the business community and reformers. As one journalist put it: "It would be like putting the carriage in front of the horse. There has to be some kind of political opening up, but our society still thinks along tribal and religious lines. Its political consciousness has not developed to the point where it would elect the most efficient… The culture of democracy accepts the pluralism of opinions and relativity in all things. How can you reconcile relativity with a society that is governed by religion?"[167]

122. There is some difference of opinion over the obstacle posed to reform by the religious establishment. It is certainly true that the legitimacy of the ruling family rests to a very large extent on its religious credentials. The International Crisis Group has argued that in the context of the 'war against terrorism' and the domestic fight against violent Islam "no Saudi ruler can contemplate a significant policy shift without taking into account the likely reaction of the country's religious establishments."[168] However, other analysts emphasise the 'give and take' between the ruling family and the Ulema. Nevertheless, Government efforts to reform the education system have faced serious opposition from the clerics, who have warned against any dilution of the curriculum's Islamic content, accusing the regime of bowing to US pressure.

123. In addition to fears over the risks associated with speedy reform, there are dangers in reforming too slowly, especially in the context of socio-economic disparities and popular grievances. There is concern that the slow pace of reform could be creating a fertile recruiting ground for groups such as al Qaeda. There is anger among some parts of the population over the growing gap between rich and poor as well as over the relationship between the government and the West.

124. Insufficient job creation, an ill-adapted education system and anachronistic economic structures, particularly when coupled with the sight of thousands of Princes enjoying lavish lifestyles, risk popular discontent. Calls for social justice, an end to corruption and wider access to the country's huge natural wealth have long been central to calls for reform. Saudis increasingly point out that the frustration of their youth and resentment of social injustice are fuelling support for violent Islamic militancy.[169] Neil Partrick wrote to us about the problem of unemployment:

    Despite the cyclical patronage power of oil revenue windfalls, radical clerics have been able to exploit a relative economic downturn that has seen per capita GDP, although rising again in recent years, remain far below that enjoyed from the late 1970s to early 1980s. With officially admitted unemployment running at 10% among a 26m population rising in excess of 3% a year, and the state unable to provide meaningful jobs for its burgeoning numbers of annual school or college leavers, then economic pressures are likely to continue to cause political frustrations. In this context radicals are easily able to point to corruption and the effective political complicity of the al-Saud leadership in US and UK policies which, at the popular as well as elite level, are judged to be unconscionable, whether in Iraq or Palestine.[170]

Educational reform is a critical aspect of tackling the employment situation.

125. Dr Yamani is critical of the failure of the international community to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to pursue meaningful reform.[171] However, there is concern that pressure in this area could be counterproductive. Nevertheless, international engagement may have an indirect effect on the pace of reform. In December 2005, Saudi Arabia joined the WTO after 12 years of talks and this could accelerate the pace of reform. The country will need to adopt the entire body of WTO legislation, a process that involves liberalisation of currently restricted sectors. Saudi Arabia will have to open its protected economy to the outside world, including fellow WTO member Israel. The accession should enhance the business environment in Saudi Arabia by improving transparency and predictability.[172]

126. There is also a role for the international community in supporting reform efforts. Dr Peter Gooderham, Director Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the Committee about the Government's efforts in this area: "the fund that we have available in the FCO, the Engagement with the Islamic World Fund, and the £10 million that the Foreign Secretary referred to—we are using a lot of that money for precisely projects designed to bolster rule of law, the participation of women in the political and democratic processes in various countries in the region; so we are doing what we can."[173] However, Dr Gooderham also cautioned against political interference: "Obviously, we have been doing what we can to encourage the process of democratisation. We are not alone; there is a G8 process that is active; but we are very careful to put that in the context of encouragement rather than trying to impose or direct, because that would clearly be counterproductive."[174]

127. The Government has supported a number of projects in Saudi Arabia using the Global Opportunities Fund. These have included training journalists on election reporting, promoting the participation of women in civil society and promoting economic reform and liberalisation. The British Council has also been active in supporting the reform process, for example by running women's self-development and leadership workshops.

128. We conclude that despite a number of reform steps, the political environment remains severely constrained in Saudi Arabia. This raises serious concerns, and in the context of glaring socio-economic disparities, could feed into extremism and the causes of terrorism. Nevertheless, we conclude that the Saudi reform process must be domestically driven; perceived interference by the international community could be counter productive.


129. There are numerous human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia. The FCO's Annual Report on human rights has an extensive section on Saudi Arabia. This says: "There has been a small but significant improvement in the situation in Saudi Arabia since our last Annual Report. However, the Saudi government has continued to violate human rights, including by restricting freedoms of expression and press, assembly, association, religion and movement. The government also continues to discriminate against women, foreigners, non-Muslims and non-Sunnis Muslims and to impose strict limitations on workers' rights."[175] In particular, the Report refers to:

  • the introduction of a new code for criminal procedure, although torture of detainees is still routine;
  • discrimination against non-Muslims and restriction of women's rights; and
  • the slow process of reform.

130. In our latest Human Rights report, published in February 2006, we said:

    Human Rights Watch have raised concerns that the Government "may be contemplating a possible Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Saudis, regarding commitments not to torture those who might be deported to Saudi Arabia, along the lines of MOUs which have already been agreed with Jordan and Libya." Additionally, Kate Allen of Amnesty International told the Committee: "We would recognise that there have been small steps. We are not sure whether those are significant or not. The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is still absolutely dire in very many ways that we have documented, including appalling use of the death penalty and the use of torture." The use of the death penalty for a broad range of crimes such as apostasy, drug offences, witchcraft, adultery and murder, as well as broad crimes such as 'acts of sabotage and corruption on earth', raises particular concerns.[176]

We also noted concerns about the treatment of British and Commonwealth nationals, including Dr William Sampson, who confessed to a bombing while in Saudi police custody.[177]

131. In its response to that Report, the Government told us that it continues to raise its concerns about human rights with the Saudi authorities at all levels, and noted the enhanced bilateral cooperation through the Two Kingdoms Dialogue (we discuss this positive initiative later in this chapter).[178] It also outlined some of the positive steps that have occurred, for example with regard to women's rights.

132. We pursued these issues during our visit to Saudi Arabia. We were particularly struck by the complete segregation of society, with Saudi women excluded from meetings. This was particularly evident at one meeting, when our female interlocutors observed us via a video link and were unable to participate themselves. In February 2006, Human Rights Watch outlined its concerns about the position of women:

    Women in the kingdom continue to suffer from severe discrimination in the workplaces, homes, and courts, and from restrictions on their freedom of movement. Women do not have the right to leave the house without a male relative or written permission from their guardian, which is also required to enrol in school or university, seek medical help, or open a bank account. There are reports that some government institutions have refused to accept women's new identity cards, insisting on seeing a woman's family card as well. A recent study of the Saudi-American Bank found that "compensation of Saudi males is on average two times that of Saudi females with the same level of education." The government has so far also failed to act on a recommendation from the government-appointed National Dialogue calling for the appointment of women judges to family courts.[179]

133. During our visit we heard about a number of positive steps on women's rights. These include changes in the labour law to allow women to work in more fields and measures to improve the training and education available to women. For the first time, women have been allowed to stand for election to the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce; despite a reportedly hostile campaign by several imams, two women were elected (out of 12 representatives) and a further two women were appointed to sit on the board (out of six appointed members).[180] We were also assured that there will be further steps to improve the situation of women. Nevertheless, women's rights in Saudi Arabia remain seriously constrained. As Dr Yamani told the Committee:

    [I]t is the only country in the world where women are not legally allowed to drive cars or travel between one city and another without permission of their guardian. Obviously, it is the only country where women are not allowed to vote… Unemployment for women remains at 95 per cent. There is some progress though; King Abdullah is planning to have more jobs created for women, but it is very gender segregated and still has to comply to the definition by the Wahhabi clerics of the nature of women. [181]

134. During our visit, we were also deeply concerned by what we heard about the rights of foreign workers. We got the impression that this issue is not taken as seriously as it should be by the Saudi authorities. In its memorandum, Human Rights Watch outlined the situation:

    Migrant workers continue to suffer from discrimination in practice and in law. Long working hours and round-the-clock confinement put domestic workers at a heightened risk of abuse. Non-payment of wages for several months and confiscation of passports and residency permits, in contravention of the law, are common violations. The public school system remains closed to the dependents of migrant workers. Poor migrant workers have little if any access to the justice system, given their lack of resources, literacy, and Arabic language capabilities. One-half of those judicially executed so far in 2005 have been migrant workers, although they constitute less one third of the population.[182]

135. We conclude that the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia continues to give cause for grave concern. We recommend that the Government continue to make clear that discrimination against women, other human rights abuses which are endemic in Saudi Arabia including discrimination against migrant workers, torture and the shortcomings of the judicial system, breed discontent and fall far short of universal standards. We recommend that the Government set out in its response to this Report what progress was made in this area at the April 2006 meeting of the Two Kingdoms Forum. We further recommend that the Government set out whether it is seeking a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia.

Bilateral relations

136. The bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia is clearly immensely important to both countries. Saudi Arabia meets nearly all the government's strategic priorities. As Neil Partrick told us: "Saudi Arabia is a pivotal player in the security and stability of the Arabian peninsula".[183] In recent years, there have been a number of high level visits between the countries, with the Prime Minister visiting Saudi Arabia several times in the last year and Jack Straw visiting in the first half of 2006. The United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia have particularly strong defence and commercial ties, with growing opportunities as a result of the high oil price.

137. A bilateral forum has been set up to facilitate dialogue. The first meeting of the 'Two Kingdoms' forum was held in February 2005 and was joint hosted by the former Foreign Secretary and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud. The meeting discussed reform issues, in particular economic reform, youth and women. The second meeting was convened in April 2006. Jack Straw told us about the importance of this forum: "There was the joint conference on Saudi reform, which I chaired with His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al-Faisal in February. If you had said to me even a year ago that there was going to be this kind of joint conference, one would have been very sceptical; but it indicates an increasing commitment by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to its reform programme."[184]

138. Neil Partrick wrote to us about the need for the United Kingdom to take a critical stance towards Saudi Arabia: "It also requires greater UK government frankness about the political and administrative changes needed in the kingdom to enhance accountable and transparent decision-making; a direction that, if anything, appears to be being setback of late."[185] However, others emphasise the limits to the influence that the international community can have on Saudi Arabia, especially on domestic policy, and the importance of quiet and private diplomacy.

139. We conclude that the United Kingdom's relationship with Saudi Arabia is of critical and strategic importance. Not only is the Kingdom a crucial ally in the international 'war against terrorism', but it is central to many of this country's national interests and meets most of the Government's strategic priorities. We further conclude that while the United Kingdom may not see eye to eye with Saudi Arabia on a number of issues, it is critically important that the two countries remain close and communicative allies. We conclude that Saudi Arabia is a country where a significant British diplomatic presence can make a difference. The stability of Saudi Arabia is vital to the United Kingdom's interests, particularly in the context of the war in Iraq and developments in Iran. We conclude that stability requires significant reform.

140. At the time of concluding the drafting of our Report, the United Kingdom's courts had just determined that the Saudi Arabian government is immune, in international law, from being pursued in UK courts in relation to the unjustified detention and alleged torture of British citizens. We recommend that the British Government disclose what it knows about this grave incident and what representations it made on behalf of the British nationals.

98   "Timeline: Saudi Arabia", BBC News Online, 25 February 2006, Back

99   "Saudi most wanted killed in raid", BBC News Online, 28 February 2006, Back

100   International Crisis Group, Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?, 14 July 2004 Back

101   Q 143 Back

102   Q 146 Back

103   Q 18 Back

104   Q 145 Back

105   Q18 Back

106   International Crisis Group, Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?, 14 July 2004 Back

107   Q 143 Back

108   Q 152 Back

109   Q 148 Back

110   Q 144 Back

111   "Iraq captures Saudi blast suspect", BBC News Online, 3 March 2006, Back

112   Ev 187 Back

113   Foreign Affairs Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2002-03, Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism, HC 405, Ev 104 Back

114   Q 146 Back

115   "Saudi king vows to crush al-Qaeda", BBC News Online, 14 October 2005, Back

116   Q 18 Back

117   Newsnight, 31 July 2003 Back

118   Q 143 Back

119   Ev 187 Back

120   Q 143 Back

121   Q 18 [Professor Wilkinson] Back

122   "Democratic façade", The World Today, Mai Yamani, February 2005 Back

123   Q 18 Back

124   Q 155 Back

125   "Al-Qaeda 'behind Saudi oil plot'", BBC News Online, 25 February 2006, Back

126   Q 143 Back

127   ibid Back

128   Q 18 Back

129   Q 156 Back

130   Ev 185 Back

131   Q 157 Back

132   Q 153 Back

133   International Crisis Group, Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?, 14 July 2004 Back

134   Q 159 Back

135   Ev 189 Back

136   "Keeping the faith", Survey on Saudi Arabia, The Economist, 7 January 2006 Back

137   Q 159 Back

138   "Abdullah emerges as a reformist", Afshin Molavi, Bitterlemons, volume 4, edition 2, 19 January 2006 Back

139   "Saudi Arabia: reality check", Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2006 Back

140   Ev 181 Back

141   Q 152 Back

142   Ev 189 Back

143   Qq 62-63 Back

144   Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Active Diplomacy for a Changing World: The UK's International Priorities, Cm 6762, March 2006 Back

145   "All in the family", Survey on Saudi Arabia, The Economist, 7 January 2006 Back

146   Human Rights Watch, "Human Rights Watch Memorandum to the Government of Saudi Arabia on Human Rights Priorities in the Kingdom", 7 February 2005, available at: Back

147   CIA Yearbook, available at: Back

148   In this, Bush said that "By giving the Saudi people a greater role in their own society, the Saudi government can demonstrate true leadership in the region." Back

149   Arab Reform Bulletin, March 2005, volume 3, issue 2 Back

150   Q 168 Back

151   Ev 185 Back

152   "Democratic façade", The World Today, Dr Mai Yamani, February 2005 Back

153   ibid Back

154   Ev 186 Back

155   Arab Reform Bulletin, February 2005, volume 3 issue 1; and "Saudi Arabia: reality check", Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2006 Back

156   Arab Reform Bulletin, October 2004, volume 2 issue 9 Back

157   "Democratic façade"', The World Today, Dr Mai Yamani, February 2005 Back

158   Q 167 Back

159   "Saudi councils finally announced", BBC News Online, 15 December 2005,; and "Saudi Arabia: reality check", Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2006 Back

160   Arab Reform Bulletin, March 2005, volume 3, issue 2 Back

161   Human Rights Watch, "Human Rights Watch Memorandum to the Government of Saudi Arabia on Human Rights Priorities in the Kingdom", 7 February 2005, available at: Back

162   Human Rights Watch, "Saudi Arabia: Political Reformers Sentenced", 16 May 2005, available at: Back

163   Arab Reform Bulletin, March 2004, volume 2, issue 3 Back

164   Q 127 Back

165   Q 168 Back

166   "Obituary: King Fahd-A forceful but flawed ruler", Financial Times, 1 August 2005 Back

167   Interview conducted by the International Crisis Group, cited in Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?, International Crisis Group, 14 July 2004 Back

168   International Crisis Group, Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?, 14 July 2004 Back

169   International Crisis Group, Can Saudi Arabia Reform Itself?, 14 July 2004 Back

170   Ev 189 Back

171   Q 183 Back

172   "Saudi WTO membership approved", BBC News Online, 11 November 2005, Back

173   Q 128 [Dr Gooderham] Back

174   Q 129 [Dr Gooderham] Back

175   Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2005, Cm 6606, July 2005, p 78 Back

176   HC (2005-06) 574, paras 167-168 Back

177   Ibid, para 166. See also para 140, below. Back

178   Foreign & Commonwealth Office, First Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee; Session 2005-06; Annual Report on Human Rights 2005; Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Cm 6774, May 2006 Back

179   Human Rights Watch, "Human Rights Watch Memorandum to the Government of Saudi Arabia on Human Rights Priorities in the Kingdom", 7 February 2005, available at: Back

180   "Saudi Arabia: reality check", Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2006 Back

181   Q 185 Back

182   Human Rights Watch, "Human Rights Watch Memorandum to the Government of Saudi Arabia on Human Rights Priorities in the Kingdom",7 February 2005, available at: Back

183   Ev 184 Back

184   Q 131 Back

185   Ev 189 Back

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