Amnesty New Zealand says John Key should do more than a "quiet tick-the-box exercise" in raising human rights with Saudi leaders

Amnesty New Zealand says John Key should do more than a "quiet tick-the-box exercise" in raising human rights with Saudi leaders

Amnesty International new Zealand is calling for Prime Minister John Key to speak up about women's rights, beheadings and torture when he meets Saudi Arabia's leaders. The human rights organisation says it welcomes Mr Key's comments that he will raise human rights concerns in his talks in the kingdom on Tuesday, but he needs to do more than a "quiet tick-the-box exercise".

"Saudi Arabia is a country with a complete disregard for human rights, where torture is used to extract confessions, and already this year more than 50 people have been executed most beheaded," Amnesty's New Zealand executive director Grant Bayldon said.

"Amnesty International encourages Mr Key to raise specific human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, such as women's rights, the death penalty, including beheadings, torture and the sham justice system.

"We also call on the prime minister to raise the case of Raif Badawi, the Saudi writer sentenced to 1000 lashes and possible execution after setting up an online political forum."

At the weekend the Green Party said Mr Key should not be considering a trade deal with Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive cars and are subject to male supervision for many activities.

"John Key sent our men and women to war on the premise that ISIL beheads people, yet he is more than willing to be wined and dined by a leader that has beheaded 65 people this year alone," Greens human rights spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said.

Mr Key told TVNZ's Q+A programme he rejected Saudi's actions, but unlike ISIL they were "taking it against their own citizens".

"They're not looking to basically get to the point where they murder New Zealanders in their own country or in parts of the region that they travel to simply because we disagree with their perspective on the world," he said.

A free trade agreement would allow the countries to build a stronger relationship from which they could talk about a range of issues including human rights abuses, he said.

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