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Commons outcry over Saudi executions

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FOREIGN OFFICE Minister Sir Alan Duncan joined the chorus of disapproval following the execution of 37 prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, April 24, Sir Vince Cable asked the Government to make a statement on the executions which took place the previous day. 

Amnesty International has condemned the executions, which included the killing of a man who was under 18 at the time of his arrest, in contravention of international law.

The Middle East research Director of Amnesty International, Lynn Maalouf called it “another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shi’a minority”. 

The humanitarian organisation, which opposes capital punishment, say that the executions followed torture, unjust trials and forced confessions.

The Saudi authorities are thought to have executed 104 people so far in 2019. 

Those executed yesterday were charged with terrorism offences. One man was crucified. Another had his headless body displayed in public.

Responding to the urgent question, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan said: “We are very concerned by the executions of 37 men in Saudi Arabia and the Foreign Office is working to establish the full facts.

“The UK Government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country, including Saudi Arabia. We regularly raise human rights concerns, including the use of the death penalty, at the highest levels with the Saudi Arabian authorities.”

In response, Sir Vince Cable said: “We are in urgent need of a reappraisal of our relationship with Saudi Arabia given the fact that the continued mediaeval barbarism of the regime does not constitute the basis for a friendly alliance and indeed makes it an enemy of our values and our human rights.”

The UK Government encourages arms sales to the Saudi kingdom and trains members of the country’s security services in this country. Saudi Arabia is engaged in a war of attrition with neighbouring Yemen, for which it has attracted widespread condemnation for targeting Yemeni civilians.

The MP for Leeds North East, Fabian Hamilton said: “Publicly pinning one of the headless bodies to a pole as a warning is not only disturbingly barbaric and medieval in nature, but an abhorrent violation of human rights. 

“According to the families of those executed, there was no prior notice that the executions would be carried out. That is a blatant flouting of international standards set out by even the most brutal of regimes that still use the death penalty. 

“We know that some, if not all, of those executed, were convicted in Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, which has been widely condemned by human rights groups as secretive, and which has in the past been used to try human rights activists, whom the state often wrongly regards as terrorists.

“We also know that at least three of those executed were juveniles—a clear violation of international law, which the Saudi regime appears to care very little about. 

“Abdulkarim al-Hawaj was charged with participating in demonstrations, incitement via social media and preparing banners with anti-state slogans. Reports from human rights watchdogs in the country claim that he was beaten and the so-called confessions extracted from him through various means of torture. 

“Mujtaba al-Sweikat was a student about to begin his studies at Western Michigan University when he was arrested at King Fahd airport, beaten and so-called confessions extracted through torture.

“Salman Qureish was just 18 when he was executed, but he was convicted of crimes that allegedly took place when he was still a child. The UN has condemned his sentencing and the use of the death penalty against him after he was denied basic legal rights, such as access to a lawyer.”

Carmarthen East & Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards said: “The vast majority of those executed yesterday were Shi’a Muslims. To what degree do the British Government consider that the Saudi regime is using the death penalty as a means of quashing dissent among a persecuted religious minority within its borders?”

Sir Alan Duncan replied: “I do not think that this is the moment for me to give an extended thesis on such matters, but I understand the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion. In many parts of the Middle East, the Sunni-Shi’a conflict is very intensive and creates enormous tension, difficulty and strife.”

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Willy make the council fix the road?

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DRIVERS in and around the Maenclochog area are still recovering today after a hardened vandal spray-painted yellow penises along a stretch of road near Morvil.
The road, just off the B4313, was targeted with graffiti because of the number of potholes scattered along it’s length.
Locals have dubbed the cock-sure artist as ‘Wanksy’ and have discovered that whoever drew the penises also wrote ‘Follow the yellow d### road’.
Some of the penises have been drawn around more sizeable potholes, but simply pointing disapprovingly at the smaller ones.
If you want to report a pothole, the chosen method is still via the Pembrokeshire County Council website.
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‘Learning needs’ offered support through new website

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A NEW website, providing help and information for parents, teachers and professionals involved in supporting children and young people with Additional Learning Needs (ALN), has been launched in Pembrokeshire.

Run by the County Council’s Inclusion Service, the website is divided into four main sections headed:

  • Support and Provision for ALN
  • Parent Partnership Services
  • Resources
  • Pupil Voice and Wellbeing

The website contains information for families about local events, parent networks and drop-ins providing the opportunity to meet with local support teams of specialists.

It also tells the touching story of Eliza and her inspiring journey as she began her schooling in Johnston Primary under the headship of Gareth Jones.

Other local young people such as Freya, Jack, Siana, Mair and Jamie are also featured and have important stories to tell on what is important to them in overcoming dyspraxia, dyslexia and autism

Many of them attended the launch in County Hall, Haverfordwest, on Wednesday (May 15) along with Scarlet’s rugby players, Simon Gardiner – himself dyslexic – and Josh Helps.

The County Council’s new Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, Guy Woodham, described how proud he was of the remarkable achievements of the children and young people in Pembrokeshire with additional needs.

He said he was especially pleased to learn that the outcomes for children and young people with ALN were consistently higher in the County than over half of the local authorities in Wales over the last two and three years.

Councillor Woodham added: “This website in an invaluable tool and provides professionals and families with a wide range of early screening, classroom strategies, resources as well as things that can help in the home.”

Nicola Jones, the Council’s Head of Inclusion, Disability and Wellbeing, said that early identification and intervention strategies had allowed the Authority to make significant strides in meeting the needs of youngster with ALN.

She said: “With the joined up offer of support and provision in schools, it means more children’s needs are being met within the classroom.
“There are now 24 per cent of learners with additional needs compared to 31% in 2012, with only 8 per cent compared to 18 per cent with complex needs.”

Describing his own experience, Haverfordwest-born rugby prop forward Simon said: “Teachers didn’t really understand my dyslexia when I was at school. They thought I was naughty or just wasn’t trying. I really loved maths and science, but when it came to putting anything on paper, I really struggled.

“If teachers had more understanding of dyslexia, they would have been able to help me more. That’s why this website is a good thing, because there is a lot of information there.

“I would especially recommend this website to parents. It’s a great way to point them in the right direction to get advice and find out more. Now teachers seem to know more about dyslexia and what to look for.”

The Council’s Chief Executive, Ian Westley added that although he recognised the Authority had one of the highest rates of exclusion, he was delighted that already the new approach was having a significant impact in reducing that number.

The website address is: https://pembsinclusionservice.wales/

To speak to someone directly about your child’s additional needs, contact the helpline on 01437 776354 or email pps@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

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RNLI lifeguards return to Welsh beaches

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RNLI lifeguards will be returning to their posts across Wales from Saturday (25 May) to offer safety advice and assistance over the May half term.

The charity’s lifeguards will be on the following beaches to welcome those enjoying the half term holidays on the Welsh coast:

Denbighshire – Rhyl and Prestatyn.
Ceredigion – Borth, Aberystwyth North, Llangrannog, New Quay Harbour, Aberporth.
Pembrokeshire – Tenby South, Newgale Central, Whitesands
Carmarthenshire – Pembrey
Swansea – Langland, Caswell, Port Eynon, Three Cliffs Bay.
Neath and Port Talbot – Aberavon.
Vale of Glamorgan – Whitmore Bay
Bridgend – Rest Bay, Trecco Bay, Coney / Sandy Bay

A lifeguarding service will be provided everyday between 10am-6pm over the school half term. The lifeguard’s role is to advise, supervise and rescue those in trouble on the beach or in the water.

Joanna Price, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager said: “The lifeguards have all completed their intense training in the sunshine over the past few weeks and are looking forward to returning to beaches across Wales this weekend. Hopefully you won’t need the lifeguards help, but by visiting a lifeguarded beach you get the peace of mind and reassurance that expert advice and assistance is available if needed. The lifeguards’ work is to advise, supervise and rescue those who need help on the beach or in the water.

“When visiting a lifeguarded beach always make sure to bathe between the red and yellow flags. This area is closely monitored by the lifeguards throughout the day. The flags are set out daily and moved depending on the state of the tide by the lifeguard team.

“We want people to enjoy the coastline and therefore urge people to respect the water and take extra care when visiting the coast, by taking some basic precautions. Plan your activity – check the weather and tide conditions before going to sea, and make sure your equipment is all in working order.

“Carry a means of calling for help should something go wrong. If you see someone in trouble please don’t attempt the rescue yourself, alert a lifeguard or call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

For a full detailed list of lifeguard service dates in Wales as well as further safety advice please visit the RNLI website rnli.org.uk.

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