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British cultural institutions accused of “art-washing” Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses

Human rights groups are accusing leaders of British cultural institutions such as the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre of “art-washing” Saudia Arabia’s abuses as their representatives travel to the Saudi capital to pitch for contracts on lucrative Saudi projects, Middle East Eye has reported.

The Great Futures Conference comes just weeks after UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron told the House of Lords that the UK government was opposed to “child executions” in Saudia Arabia, in response to questions about three defendants facing possible death sentences for alleged offences committed when they were children – Abdullah Al-Derazi, Abdullah Al-Huwaiti and Youssef Al-Manasif.

“Whilst UK ministers and their Saudi counterparts gather in Riyadh to discuss their Great Futures, three child defendants in Saudi Arabia are at risk of execution and can no longer see a future,” Reprieve’s head of death penalty, Middle East and North Africa, Jeed Basyouni, said. “A business event like this only lends legitimacy to a regime which executes child defendants based on torture-extracted confessions.”

Middle East Eye reports that Reprieve campaigns for abolishing the death penalty and represents Derazi, Huwaiti and Manasif, explaining that “Huwaiti was arrested in 2017 when he was 14 and given the death penalty at 17 after being convicted on murder and robbery charges”. It is also reported that Derazi was “disappeared for three months for protest crimes he is alleged to have committed when he was 17” and “Manasif is accused of attending funerals between the ages of 15 and 17 that Saudi Arabia deemed to be a protest with rights groups claiming he was tortured and forced to sign a false confession”.