Further memorandum submitted by the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office
Letter to the Parliamentary Relations
and Devolution Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office from
the Clerk of the Committee, 23 September 2003
The Committee wishes to receive a memorandum
on the services provided by the FCO to the six British nationals
who recently returned from Saudi Arabia, following their arrest,
conviction and subsequent pardon for serious offences, which they
have denied committing. In particular, the Committee wants to
know what support was given to these men while they were in custody,
when they were allegedly subject to torture and when confessions
were extracted from them under duress; and what representations
were made to the Saudi authorities.
The Committee would hope to receive the memorandum
not later than Wednesday 8 October.
Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from
the Parliamentary Relations and Devolution Department, Foreign
and Commonwealth Office, 13 October 2003
Thank you for your letter of 23 September, which
requested a memorandum on the services provided by the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office to the British nationals who recently
returned from Saudi Arabia, and on the representations made to
the Saudi authorities.
I enclose a memorandum. We understand that the
Committee might in due course publish this. As the memorandum
refers to the men's consular matters, we would like to provide
them with a copy of the memorandum now. It is very likely that
the men would seek to make the content of the memorandum public
as soon as they have a copy. We would be grateful for your views
1. One of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's
core functions is to provide consular assistance and support to
British nationals overseas, and information and advice to their
families. In the case of the British men recently returned to
the UK after being detained in Saudi Arabia, we provided consular
assistance and support to them and their families throughout their
detention. In doing so, the Government made repeated and vigorous
representations to the Saudi authorities at official levels and
at the highest political levels in Saudi Arabia and in the United
Kingdom. The men's welfare was our paramount concern throughout.
2. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is
guided by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963,
in providing consular services to British nationals overseas.
This provides for a right for British consular officers to have
access, and provide consular assistance, to British nationals
in detention in their consular district, who wish it. The Vienna
Convention on Consular Relations, to which Saudi Arabia and the
UK are both parties, enables consular officers to check on the
welfare of British nationals in detention and assist them to appoint
3. Following a bombing in November 2000,
which killed a British national, a number of British men were
detained in Saudi Arabia. Further bombings and detentions followed.
On first learning of these detentions, we immediately sought consular
access to the men. We pursued our right to consular access through
official level contacts with the Saudi authorities both in person
and through formal diplomatic notes, and through high level political
contacts both in Saudi Arabia and in the United Kingdom. British
Embassy consular officials visited the men as soon as they were
4. Consular access was only secured after
repeated representations. It was restricted in terms of the length
of the visits and of the range of topics which could be discussed.
We complained about these restrictions to the Saudi authorities
in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, in official level and
political contacts, in person and via formal diplomatic notes.
British Embassy consular officials visited the men regularly throughout
their detention and acted as a channel of communication between
the men and members of their families. Foreign and Commonwealth
Office officials in London and Riyadh kept in close contact with
their families and briefed them on consular visits.
5. We raised with the Saudi authorities
on many occasions a variety of specific concerns about the men's
case and repeatedly asked the Saudi authorities to explain the
reasons for the men's detention. We sought clear information about
the judicial process and its outcome; and raised with the Saudi
authorities our concerns about its lack of transparency.
6. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's
remit is to provide consular services to British nationals overseas.
However, on the men's return to the United Kingdom, the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office offered further assistance on an exceptional
7. Throughout this case, the British Government
made representations to the Saudi authorities at all levels, official
and political. The men's case was raised by many, including:
the Prime Minister, repeatedly and
at the highest levels in person and through messages;
the Foreign Secretary, in detailed
discussions with senior members of the Saudi government;
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers
and senior officialsincluding Baroness Scotland, Baroness
Amos, Brian Wilson, Mike O'Brien and Baroness Symonswith
the Saudi Ambassador to London, and when they met senior Saudis
in London or elsewhere;
the Defence Secretary, HRH the Prince
of Wales and Members of Parliament;
HMA Riyadh, unrelentingly with senior
members of the Saudi government;
HM Consul in Riyadh and British Embassy
officials, tirelessly with Saudi officials.
8. During this time, consular assistance
and support was also provided to a significant number of other
British nationals in Saudi Arabia, including some detained or
questioned by the Saudi authorities.
9. Helping British nationals in distress
overseas is one of the most important elements of this Government's
foreign policy. Our work in providing assistance and support to
the men detained in Saudi Arabia and their families reflects the
significance the Government places on dealing with consular cases.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office