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Saudi prison bid on despite JSi shutdown

Contract ‘risks giving approval to torture’

A COMMERCIAL Ministry of Justice body will still bid for a controversial £5.9 million contract in Saudi Arabia despite Michael Gove ordering its closure.

Campaigners warned yesterday that Just Solutions international’s (JSi) involvement in the country notorious for public beheadings, flogging and torture risks giving a stamp of approval to the abuse.

The government claimed that JSi would be liable for financial penalties if it pulled out of the bid now.

If it wins the contract to “conduct a training needs analysis” for the Saudi prison service the work will be completed within six months of starting, the MoJ said.

JSi — which has previously been criticised for carrying out work in countries with poor human rights records such as Pakistan, Libya, Nigeria and Oman — was set up as the internal commercial brand of the National Offender Management Service (Noms) by then justice secretary Chris Grayling in 2013.

“Given our ambitious justice reform programme and the need to focus departmental resources on domestic priorities, the Justice Secretary has decided that JSi should cease to operate,” Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said.

“Noms will therefore not pursue any new projects with international partners through JSi.”

He said the Saudi contract bid was “sufficiently far advanced that the government has decided withdrawing at this late stage would be detrimental to [the government’s] wider interests.”

The MoJ claims that JSi’s work was focused on trying to improve human rights standards in the countries’ jails through training and prison design, and complied with British human rights standards.

But human rights campaign Amnesty International warned that involvement in Saudi Arabia could risk Britain in effect rubber stamping human rights abuses.

Amnesty UK director Kate Allen said “Our concerns remain that while it’s not entirely inconceivable that British expertise could actually help improve the dire situation many prisoners in countries like Saudi Arabia find themselves in, Britain’s involvement in those prison systems risks lending a British stamp of approval to human rights abuse in jails in Riyadh and elsewhere.”

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