His regime is condemned as one of the most brutal in the world, but today Britain will welcome King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
This week, Gordon Brown and David Cameron will welcome the leader of one of the world’s most vicious dictatorships to Britain. Both men will embrace King Abdullah al-Saud, who heads a regime in which, according to Amnesty International, “Fear and secrecy permeate every aspect of life. Every day the most fundamental human rights of people in Saudi Arabia are being violated.”
In his Labour Party conference speech last month, the Prime Minister declared that he would oppose dictatorship everywhere: “The message should go out to anyone facing persecution from Burma to Zimbabwe … human rights are universal.” He has refused to even attend the same summit as the Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe, on the grounds that “there is no freedom in Zimbabwe, and there is widespread torture and mass intimidation of the political opposition.” David Cameron has also just promised to put “human rights” at the heart of his “foreign policy vision”.
Yet both political leaders refuse to make a commitment to even mention human rights to the king. Instead, he will ride in a golden carriage with the Queen, and be guest of honour at a Buckingham Palace banquet. It is the start of a three-day state visit, funded by the British taxpayer. The decision to lavish large sums and the rare prestige of a state visit on King Abdullah has attracted severe criticism in Westminster. The Liberal Democrats’ acting leader, Vincent Cable, has refused to attend the banquet. The Labour MP John McDonnell said: “We are feting this man because Saudi Arabia controls 25 per cent of the world’s oil, and because we sell him billions of pounds’ worth of weapons. It is an insult to everything Britain stands for to put these geopolitical concerns ahead of the rights of women, trade unionists and all Saudi people