British Minister for International Trade Ranil Jayawardena has met with Nayef Falah Mubarak al-Hajraf, the secretary-general of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in Saudi Arabia on the same day the kingdom executed a Shia youth despite worldwide appeals for a reprieve.
On Tuesday, the Saudi Interior Ministry announced the execution of Mustafa bin Hashem bin Issa Al Darwish, 26, in the Eastern Province.
The victim had been sentenced to death over alleged participation in peaceful protests against the regime in Riyadh when he was only 17 years old.
Human rights groups and activists denounced the execution, saying Darwish had been subjected to prolonged detention, flawed trial, torture and forced confession.
Darwish's relatives had called on British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to raise the case during his visit to the kingdom last week.
In a statement following Raab’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the UK Foreign Office claimed that the minister had “raised human rights concerns, notably around justice reform and freedom of media expression.”
However, Maya Foa, director of UK-based campaign group Reprieve, said, "It is not enough for Saudi Arabia’s partners to ‘raise human rights issues', as British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reportedly did on his recent visit to the Kingdom.”
"They need to raise specific cases, and make clear that executions for childhood crimes will not be tolerated. Otherwise, Abdullah al-Howaiti, arrested aged 14 and sentenced to death at 17, could be next,” added Foa, who was speaking after Darwish’s execution.
Additionally on Tuesday, Jayawardena met with Hajraf, a former Kuwaiti government minister, in Riyadh.
In a post on his Twitter account, the British trade minister said, "Together, we will strengthen trade relationships with all GCC countries even further.”
🤝 Good to meet @GCC Secretary-General HE Dr Nayef Falah M Al-Hajraf today.⁰⁰✅ Thanks to the GCC for their input into our Joint Trade and Investment Review.— Ranil Jayawardena MP (@ranil) June 15, 2021
📈 Together, we will strengthen trade relationships with all GCC countries even further.⁰⁰#GlobalTrade #GlobalBritain pic.twitter.com/QgMS1N0XnF
Hajraf, for his part, said he had “stressed the importance of the GCC-British relations and the promotion of the economic and trade cooperation,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The Western countries have long been accused of turning a blind eye to the kingdom’s dire human rights record.
The country has carried out 26 executions so far this year, according to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights.