REDRESS & The Parliamentary Human Rights Group

Embargoed for 0001 hrs on Tuesday 20 January 1998

MPs CALL ON GOVERNMENT TO ACT

AGAINST TORTURE IN SAUDI ARABIA

The all-party Parliamentary Human Rights Group is to call on the government today (Tuesday 20 January 1998)to act against "brutal and sustained torture" inflicted on detainees in Saudi Arabia.

In a comprehensive report issued jointly with Redress, the human rights group, MPs say that detained British citizens and other foreigners face torture in hundreds of detention centres in Saudi Arabia, but in the vast majority of cases their governments do not protect them or protest against their torture.

The report says that the claims made last year by two British nurses, who said they were tortured by Saudi officials into making false confessions after the murder of Yvonne Gilford, were not unusual.

Citing evidence from individuals and governments in more than a dozen countries, as well as Saudi victims, the report says detainees can be held indefinitely in insect-infested cells and denied all access to family, lawyers or diplomats while they are mercilessly subjected to fierce beatings, electric shocks and sexual assaults.

Although the Foreign Office has now said it will assist British nationals where there is "clear evidence" of ill-treatment, the report says that there is "disturbing evidence that the UK has consistently failed to protect and assist its nationals adequately when they become victims of torture in Saudi Arabia and may even have acquiesced in providing the regime with the instruments it uses to commit torture."

"The time for discreet silence is over,"says MP Ann Clwyd, Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, in an introduction to the 95-page report.

The report calls on the UK Government to press for an end to torture in Saudi Arabia and to enact legislation which would allow torture survivors to sue, under international and national law, for damages in British courts. It also calls for new restrictions to prevent UK companies contributing to torture abroad.

News conference:-12.15 p.m. Tuesday 20 January 1998, The Jubilee Room, House of Commons.

For interviews, information and copies of the report contact: Redress (0)171 278 9502 or the Parliamentary Human Rights Group (0)171 219 3446 or 219 6609.