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Mon 4 Jan 2016 12:43 PM

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UK gov't urged to explain its vote for KSA on UN Human Rights Council

Cross-party calls for the London gov't to explain claims it was involved in a secret vote-trading deal to secure the kingdom's election

UK gov't urged to explain its vote for KSA on UN Human Rights Council
(Getty Images)

British political parties have reportedly demanded David Cameron's government explain the role it played in voting Saudi Arabia onto the UN Human Rights Council, following the kingdom’s execution of 47 people in one day.

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks last year purported to show that the UK was involved in a secret vote-trading deal to help ensure both countries a place on the influential panel, The Independent newspaper reported.

Both countries were elected to the council in November 2013. Saudi Arabia was elected to represent Asia without contest, despite human rights concerns, including incidents raised publicly and privately by British prime ministers.

Until now, UK officials had not commented on the Wikileaks allegations.

The Independent said, following Saturday’s mass executions, leaders of multiple political parties had called on the government to issue a full response to the alleged leaked diplomatic cables.

The Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, called for a public inquiry into the Wikileaks allegations.

“In light of the weekend's events, the government should be launching an inquiry to establish who made the decision to so abuse the UN process and the principle of universal human rights. The results of this inquiry must be published,” she was quoted as saying by The Independent.

“And the government must immediately suspend exports of arms to Saudi Arabia, and strengthen its currently extremely weak diplomatic response”.

Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron reportedly said it was time Prime Minister David Cameron “came clean” about whether the government supported Saudi Arabia's election to the UN Human Rights Council.

"It would make a utter mockery of the values we hold dear if they did support them. We must be stronger with our supposed allies and say that systematic abuses of human rights will not be tolerated,” he was quoted as saying.

"If the government did support the Saudi bid, it would show once and for all that the government puts profit above fundamental human rights."

In response to the calls, a spokesman for the Foreign Office told The Independent: "Saudi Arabia took part in an uncontested election for a seat as one of the Asian Group members in the UN's Human Rights Council.

"So while the UK never publicises how it votes, this was not a contested election within the Asian Group and the UK's vote was immaterial."

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