Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP has urged UK representatives to challenge both Russia and Saudi Arabia on their shocking human rights records as the two prepare to face-off in the World Cup opener.
A House of Commons library briefing, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, has highlighted the extent to which the two states have been reprimanded by the UN over systemic human rights abuses.
Recent UN reports on Russia have pointed to serious concerns with the regime’s tolerance - and often encouragement - of domestic violence, racist hate crimes and racist hate speech, open discrimination of Roma, the practice of torture, unfair trials, the curtailing of free speech and the persecution of the LGBT+ community.
In Saudi Arabia, the UN has pointed to exploitative working conditions for migrant workers, obstacles to freedom of religion for non-Muslims, massive discrimination against ethnic minorities, torture, cruel and inhumane corporal punishment, the arrest of journalists and the appalling treatment of women.
Commenting, Ms Jardine said:
“The World Cup opening match will see Russia and Saudi Arabia go head to head on the football pitch. But if this were a game of ‘who has the worst human rights record’, we would be hard pushed to pick a winner.
“Both regimes engage in systematic repression of their people, including journalists, opposition politicians, ethnic minorities, women and LGBT+ communities.
“The World Cup is of course a celebration of how sport can bring people together. But we cannot allow it to be used as a smokescreen to hide the everyday repression people face around the world.
“Any representatives from the UK attending the World Cup must not be afraid to stand up for human rights. I expect them, as would people back home, to challenge Russia and Saudi Arabia on their oppressive regimes.”