Downing Street has criticised Saudi Arabia’s execution of 81 men, just days before Boris Johnson is expected to visit the country.
The killings took place on Saturday and were reported to be the most in a 24-hour period in the history of the kingdom.
They happened just days before the prime minister is reportedly set to visit Saudi Arabia to encourage Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to increase his oil supplies in response to the global energy crisis
Asked what the prime minister thought about the executions, his official spokesman said on Monday: “I think the UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, in every country as a matter of principle.
“We routinely raise human rights issues with other countries including Saudi Arabia and we will be raising Saturday’s executions with the government in Riyadh.”
The country’s state-run Saudi Press Agency announced the executions of 81 people convicted of a variety of crimes, marking the largest mass execution conducted there in recent memory.
Cabinet minister Sajid Javid also insisted the UK would continue to challenge Saudi Arabia over human rights abuses.
The health secretary said Britain had a “very candid and frank” relationship with the Gulf state.
The invasion of Ukraine by the Kremlin has put more pressure on energy costs as the West tries to wean itself off supplies of Russian oil and gas.
Johnson reportedly plans to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the hope his kingdom can raise its production of oil and gas to make up for a reduced reliance on Russia.
However, the Saudi prince has been repeatedly criticised for human rights abuses.
Javid told LBC: “We’ve had a long-standing relationship with the Saudi government where there’s always a very frank exchange.
“We don’t agree with our approach on human rights – we’re always right to call that out and to talk to them, frankly, about that.
“At the same time, it is also possible to have an economic relationship.
“You know, whether people like it or not, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest producer of crude oil and it’s important, especially at the time of a major global energy crisis, that we have these talks with them.”
The PM hopes his personal relationship with the Saudi prince will help start a conversation about Gulf states supplying more oil and gas, according to The Times.
Polly Truscott, Amnesty International UK’s Foreign Affairs Human Rights Adviser, said: “The shocking news about mass executions in Saudi Arabia makes it more important than ever that the prime minister challenges the Saudi authorities over their absolutely appalling human rights record and that he speaks publicly about human rights during this trip.”