Foreign AffairsWritten evidence from Rehman Chishti MP, Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham


1. Rehman Chishti MP is the Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham and Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Saudi Arabia.

2. Mr Chishti visited Saudi Arabia between the 4—8 December 2011, as part of the APPG’s delegation to the country.

UK and Saudi relationships

3. The UK has long standing links with Saudi Arabia and the relationship between the two countries has been beneficial. Saudi Arabia is a key country in the region for the UK.

4. On his visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2012, the Prime Minister David Cameron said that having a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia is vital to advancing the UK’s priorities in the region. This includes investment and exports, co-operation on security, counter terrorism and promoting stability, reforms and protection for human rights.


5. British-Saudi relations have historically been successful and brought economic benefits to both countries.

6. Saudi Arabia is the UK’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and trade represents more than £15 billion per annum. More than £62 billion has been invested in the UK by the Saudis.

Counter Terrorism

7. Saudi Arabia has also suffered from terrorism but has not yet introduced new counter terrorism legislation. Instead they have relied on the general principles of Islamic Law.

8. An anti terrorism law is in draft form and is being considered in the Consultative Council. For it to become law, it would have to be referred to the Committee of Security Affairs, seek the views of relevant authorities and representatives of the Government.


9. In 2007, legislation was introduced to enhance the independence of the judiciary and reform the Ministry of Justice.

10. This included giving the Supreme Judicial Council powers usually held by the Minister of Justice, including the supervision of the court system and judicial appointments.

11. The Kingdom has been subject to criticism for human rights violations and for the absence of a codified penal law. They have since passed legislation to address this and last August a plan to develop the Higher Institute for Judicial Studies has passed in an effort to reform the judiciary and raise standards. For example, the judiciary must now be trained by the institute.

12. In 2010 a Human Rights Watch Report commented that as a result of King Abdullah’s judicial reforms, the judiciary may become a fairer institution.

Human Rights

13. The Kingdom’s approach to human rights has been changing. Although laws are inferred from Islamic Law, to improve clarification, in 2010 the Council of Senior Religious Scholars approved the codification of Islamic Law.

14. The Kingdom has also taken action to set up relevant institutions to guarantee the protection of human rights in the country. This includes the Human Rights Commission and the National Society for Human Rights.

15. The Human Rights Commission was established in 2005 and aims to protect and promote human rights in accordance with international standards.

16. The National Society for Human Rights was established in 2004 and aimed to implement international human rights charters. It has introduced a special panel to monitor women’s rights, and to support citizens in pursuing and protecting their rights.

17. In addition, departments and institutions have also been created. For example the Commission for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has established a human rights department.

18. On Women’s rights, the Labour Law of 2006 eased sex segregation in employment. A Royal Decree in 2005 permitted private enterprise with certain requirements to employ women and the Council of Ministers Resolution 125 enabled women to be able to apply for business licences.

19. Recently reforms have enabled women to travel without a guardian and the King has appointed Dr Nora al Fayez as the Deputy Education Minster for Girls’ Education, the first women to hold such a position.

20. In September 2011, the King granted women the right to enter the consultative council as full members and has pledged to appoint more women to the Shura Council (consultative council) next year. Furthermore the King has announced that women will be allowed to vote and stand as a candidate in the next municipal council elections in 2015.

International Relations

21. The Kingdom signed the Vienna Agreement with Austria and Spain to establish the International Centre for interfaith dialogue in Vienna and the Kingdom has worked to create greater understanding between religions and cultures.

22. The Kingdom has also worked for peace between Arabs and Israelis and has produced a widely praised peace plan for the region.

23. Saudi Arabia is also the country which donates the most for humanitarian causes with its total aid budget of $3.5 billion in 2010.

12 November 2012

Prepared 21st November 2013