A fundamental difference

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir talked to Channel 4 News’ Jonathan Rugman, who wondered why the kingdom had to execute quite so many people.

Al-Jubeir responded: “We have a fundamental difference, in your country, you do not execute people, we respect it. In our country, the death penalty is part of our laws and you have to respect this as it is the law.”

No we don’t. Nobody does. Nobody has to “respect” other countries’ laws just because they’re laws. (They have to obey them while in those countries, but that’s a different thing.) Shit laws don’t merit respect.

People don’t have to respect US laws on capital punishment either, by the way. I don’t respect them, lots of us don’t respect them, and non-Americans are entirely free to say they’re shit.

We don’t have to respect the Saudi death penalty and we sure as hell don’t have to respect the grounds on which it decides to kill people. Like that Sri Lankan domestic servant who was sentenced to stoning to death for having sex: I’m not going to respect that. It’s horrific and indefensible. Saudi Arabia should be a pariah state.

In the Channel 4 interview, Al-Jubeir said his country had to do more to address its bad reputation in the UK.

“With regards to the perception of Saudi Arabia among the British public, this is a problem that we need to work on. We have not been good at explaining ourselves,” he said.

“We have not done a good job at reaching out to the British media or the British public or to the British institutions, academic institutions, think tanks and so forth. We maybe not have been as communicative as we should be.”

No no no. That’s not it. Forget that. It doesn’t matter how you spin it or frame it or mark it with a b; it’s still what it is.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “2015 saw Saudi Arabia execute over 150 people, many of them for non-violent offences. Today’s appalling news, with nearly 50 executed in a single day, suggests 2016 could be even worse.

“Alarmingly, the Saudi Government is continuing to target those who have called for domestic reform in the kingdom, executing at least four of them today.

“There are now real concerns that those protesters sentenced to death as children could be next in line to face the swordsman’s blade.”

No amount of PR is going to fix that.

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