Meanwhile, in London – a baffling plan is afoot.
The UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is hoping to profit from selling its expertise to the prison service in Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for public beheadings, floggings, amputations and courts that regularly violate human rights.
A new commercial arm of the justice ministry, staffed by civil servants, has bid for a £5.9m contract in Saudi Arabia. Just Solutions international (JSi) will also soon start setting up a probation service in Macedonia, and is in the running to build a prison in Oman.
How can any branch of the UK government have anything whatever to do with the prison service in Saud-family Arabia of all things? What next? A contract to paint flowers on the handles of the sticks they use to flog people?
Human rights groups have raised concerns about the MoJ working so closely with a regime currently under scrutiny over the botched execution of a woman who died protesting her innocence and the harsh punishment meted out to a liberal blogger.
Allan Hogarth, Amnesty’s UK head of policy and government affairs, said: “Amnesty has serious concerns about Saudi Arabia’s justice system, given its use of the death penalty, the prevalence of torture in detention, and its use of cruel and degrading punishment.
Also? There’s the fact that the “justice system” is clogged with people who committed nothing recognizable as a crime. The UK MoJ shouldn’t be going within a thousand miles of it.
The ministry said that all JSi projects had to be signed off by the Foreign Office and the local embassy after an evaluation that covered human rights, but declined to provide further details on the grounds that the project was “commercially sensitive”.
Oh, well, if it’s commercially sensitive that makes all the difference. If there’s a chance the UK government can make some money off the deal, then human rights can just go take a flying leap, yeah?
The JSi bid was featured in a December report to parliament that also gave details of a memorandum of understanding on judicial cooperation signed by the UK and Saudi Arabian justice ministers in Riyadh in September.
A memorandum of understanding. On judicial cooperation. With the Saud family.
It said the contract would be “to conduct a training needs analysis across all the learning and development programmes within the Saudi Arabian prison service”. The legal affairs blogger David Allen Green first drew attention to the the contract on his Jack of Kent website.
Like all the overseas projects run by JSi, it aims to raise funds for the National Offender Management Service, which runs prisons and probation services in England and Wales.
Blood money. Dirty filthy blood money. You bastards.