There is more than ever talk about the UK’s influence in the MENA countries, especially in those ones with questionable governance models. Saudi Arabia comes first to mind with a succession of recent trade or commercial exchanges of services and / or goods being objected to by a majority of UK Civil Societies, NGO’s, etc. on humanitarian grounds or rather on the obvious absence of these.
The Guardian published an article written on this issue and excerpts of it are reproduced here.
Why won’t the UK government speak out on human rights abuses?
By Jane Kinninmont on 8 April 2016
Britain will only criticise the repressive regimes of its Middle Eastern allies behind closed doors. It is not enough: there must be public condemnation too
Activists in the Middle East will be unsurprised by the findings of a foreign affairs select committee report suggesting Britain’s foreign office has deprioritised human rights, citing its relationships with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain as examples. Human rights groups in these countries typically see the UK as less interested than the US or the EU in condemning repression within regimes.
The government counters that it does raise human rights issues regularly with its allies but reserves the toughest criticism for private conversations. It says criticism closes doors, arguing that more progress can be made when difficult issues are raised out of the public gaze, between friends.
The idea that human rights concerns are best raised in private has become almost a mantra among British diplomats dealing with allies in the Gulf and Egypt. Certainly, naming and shaming is not always the best way for diplomats to influence another government’s policy. Sometimes human rights groups simply want governments to call other governments out for abuses as an end in itself: for the sake of recognition, or to bear witness. But they may on occasion overestimate the degree to which foreign governments can tell people what to do with their domestic dissidents.
Conversely, however, the British government badly needs a more nuanced and evidence-based approach to identifying when and how public statements can play a useful role. . . . Read more at the above mentioned link.