A group of British MPs has launched an inquiry into the whereabouts of two prominent Saudi princes, who have not been seen since being detained by the authorities in their home country in March.
The three MPs – two from the ruling Conservative Party and one from opposition party the Liberal Democrats – say they plan to investigate and report on the detention of former Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef and Prince Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz.
Prince Mohammed is a former intelligence chief and former interior minister who is well known in the west. Prince Ahmed is a brother of King Salman and had been living in exile in London until returning to the kingdom earlier this year. Both were detained in March but there have been no formal charges levelled against either of them and concerns have been raised about the conditions in which they are being held.
The MPs point out that the princes have reportedly been denied access to legal advice, medical care and communication with family members. “If these two individuals can find themselves detained and disappeared then what does that say for everyone else in Saudi Arabia,” said panel chairman Crispin Blunt, a former chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.
Blunt had an initial informal discussion on the topic with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to London Prince Khalid Bin Bandar on Monday and a more formal meeting is scheduled for next week, at which the other MPs on the panel – LibDem spokesperson for foreign affairs and international development Layla Moran and Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan – will also attend.
They will ask to be allowed to visit the two men in Saudi Arabia to review the conditions in which they are being held. If the Saudi authorities do not cooperate, the panel intends to the pull together any evidence it can from other sources and publish their findings. “It would be a matter of weeks to pull a report together,” said Blunt.
That would enable the panel – whose members also include two lawyers, Tim Moloney QC of Doughty Street Chambers and Haydee Dijkstal of 33 Bedford Row – to publish a report ahead of the G20 leaders’ summit, which Saudi Arabia is due to host virtually in late November.
“It is vital Saudi Arabia’s compliance with human rights is high on the agenda at the G20 meeting later this year,” said Tayab Ali, a partner at law firm Bindmans, which constituted the panel.
“We’re not reviewing the whole Saudi justice system. We’re reviewing the conditions of these two men,” Blunt added.
Blunt was for many years a reliable advocate of closer Saudi-UK relations, but in recent times has become more critical of the regime in Riyadh. He and Moran previously served on another cross-party panel which examined the jail conditions of Saudi activists such as Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef who had campaigned for the right of women to drive. Blunt also previously chaired a panel investigating the conditions in which former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was detained.