You may recall that I have blogged previously about the “Qatif girl” case (see here, here, here and here) in which a young Saudi woman was gang raped and then sentenced to 200 lashes and 6 months in prison for her part in the crime.

I wrote at the time to my MP asking him to find out what was up with the British government, who were strangely quiet and had expressed no public condemnation of these events. My MP promptly wrote to the foreign office and at last a reply has been forthcoming. Kim Howells (minister responsible for relations with Saudi Arabia) says:

“The UK Government raised the case with Saudi authorities. The facts to hand on this case are disturbing. We urged the Saudi authorities to review the case again. We understand that King Abdullah has granted a Royal pardon to the victim.

We remain concerned to hear that the victim’s lawyer will be brought before a disciplinary committee for defending the case. The committee may decide to suspend or revoke his licence to practice law. Our Embassy in Riyadh continues to monitor this case.

The UK Government remains concerned about the overall human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, including discrimination against women, non-Muslims, homosexuals, the retrictions on freedom of expression, movement, assembly and worship, the implementation of UN human righst instruments and issues relating to the judicial process.

The UK Government is committed to improving human rights in Saudi Arabia and have intertwined and inseparable interests: in our economies, in the fight against global terrorism and in regional stability. However, this relationship does not reduce our commitment to human rights or prevent us from raising difficult issues with the Saudi Authorities.”

Kim Howells suggested that we see also The only thing on there of much interest in relation to KSA is this state visit FAQ prepared last October when King Abdullah came to visit the Queen in London.

So what do you think? Are we impressed?