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New Zealand shouldn’t prefer human rights abusers

The New Zealand Government must halt its free trade discussions with Saudi Arabia after the latest in a long line of very public human rights atrocities.

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw said that New Zealand was sending a distressing signal by continuing to negotiate for a free trade agreement giving preferential treatment to Saudi Arabia while they continued to execute people, often with the flimsiest of evidence.

“When you have a free trade agreement with a country, you’re giving that country preferred status. You’re saying ‘you’re a country we want to have closer ties to’. Last year we called for the Government to halt these negotiations because Saudi Arabia’s behaviour shows that it is not a country New Zealand should want to be that close to,” said Mr Shaw.

“When the Prime Minister visited Saudi Arabia, not long after telling New Zealand to get some guts and fight ISIS, he said that he had brought up Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights.

“His words obviously didn’t persuade anyone because we are seeing continual, and high profile, human rights abuses.

“Claiming to say stern words in bilateral meetings clearly isn’t working. Not only that, but by continuing to push for a free trade agreement, we are tacitly approving what Saudi Arabia is doing.

“In response to the latest atrocity, Minister Finlayson said that New Zealand often raises human rights in its diplomatic communications. Human rights abuses aren’t something to ‘raise’, human rights should be fundamental to who we are as people. This Government is saying it values a free trade agreement over human rights.

“Once there is a clear demonstration that Saudi Arabia is following international law and protecting the rights of people then we are happy to see a free trade agreement continue.

“In the meantime, New Zealand should use its position on the Security Council to push for human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia and others to be accountable for every execution.”