Death Penalty January 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the death penalty.

I unequivocally oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and I believe that this cruel and inhumane sentence is utterly deplorable.

I recognise that significant concerns about Saudi Arabia, in particular, have been raised following the reported execution of 47 people on one day at the start of this year. The executions caused dismay and outrage around the world. Serious concerns have been raised not only about the sentences and the manner in which the executions were carried out but also whether due process has been followed and whether the defendants received a fair trial.

The Shadow Frontbench and Leader of the Opposition have repeatedly asked the Government to urgently turn their attention towards Saudi Arabia. Following the executions, I believe that the Government's position on British-Saudi relations needs to be clarified.

In the Government's Human Rights and Democracy Report 2014, Saudi Arabia was listed as a 'country of concern' due to the human rights situation there, particularly on the use of the death penalty, restrictions in women's rights and freedoms of expression and assembly. Pakistan, Iran and China were also listed. I am aware of unease, highlighted in your letter, that the Government is dropping the term "countries of concern" and replacing it with "human rights priority countries".

It is estimated that a third of countries still maintain the death penalty, and 141 still practise torture in one way or another. I believe that the UK Government cannot be in any way complacent about these matters, and must speak up.

Thank you once again for writing to me and sharing your views.