Canada and a coalition of 57 other countries on Monday endorsed a new international declaration condemning arbitrary state-sponsored detention of foreign citizens for political purposes.
This “declaration against arbitrary detention in interstate relations” was born from a year of international diplomacy behind the scenes, led by former Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champaign.
It is the product of Ottawa’s campaign to rally international support for the release of Canadians Michael Coffrig and Michael Spavor, who were spending their 798th day in Chinese jails on Monday.
Mr Covrig, a former Canadian diplomat working for the International Crisis Group, and Mr Spavor, a businessman specializing in trade with North Korea, were arrested by the Chinese authorities nine days after the Canadian Federal Police arrested Huawei Meng Wanzhou CEO at Vancouver Airport in December . 2018 under a US handover warrant.
Canada and its allies consider that the accusations of threatening national security were directed at the gentlemen by China. Kovrej and Spavor are wrong. They condemned the arrests, which they described as arbitrary, and demanded the release of the two men – demands that were not repeated in Beijing.
Bien que la libération des “deux Michael” demeure la priorité absolue du Canada, la nouvelle déclaration vise aussi à dénoncer plus largement cette pratique dite de “diplomatie des otages» dans d’autres pays, comme la Russie, l’Iran et la Corée from the north.
‘A contemptible practice’
In an interview, Secretary of State Marc Garneau did not name a specific country – just like the new statement, in that regard. Most of the foreign ministers who attended the launch of the two-and-a-half-hour telephone statement on Monday also avoided naming specific countries.
But Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, did not hesitate to point fingers at China and cited the case of “Michael” as a particularly striking example of this “despicable practice.” Mr. Roth said China has subjected Australian citizens to similar methods.
“Let us not forget to mention the ongoing detentions at Guantanamo, families of suspected ISIS suspects in northeastern Syria, and (countries) such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Israel, which have detained peaceful dissidents and political opponents in Roth said:“ The charges are false or without trial. Fair “.
British lawyer Amal Clooney, an international human rights activist who has represented imprisoned journalists and other victims of arbitrary political detention, said on Monday that authoritarian regimes are hiding this practice in the maze of legal procedures to “legitimize this gesture.”
Clooney hopes more countries will sign the declaration and have more “teeth” to punish political leaders who violate the travel bans and monetary fines.
Minister Garneau noted that naturally there is a difference of opinion between the two countries. But it is completely unacceptable that citizens of our country who travel to another country to visit or work there live in fear of becoming a bargaining chip. “
It is illegal. The new head of Canadian diplomacy said, “He does not respect human rights.”
Canada and its main allies in the Group of Seven, as well as the intelligence exchange network “Five Eyes”, and countries from all continents support the new declaration, which is not binding, but aims to publicly embarrass violating states. According to Minister Garneau, the declaration is in the spirit of the “Ottawa Treaty” on banning anti-personnel mines, which was sponsored by one of his predecessors in Canadian foreign affairs, Lloyd Axworthy.
Minister Champaign explained that the declaration is also inspired by Article 5 of NATO, which states that an attack on one of its 30 members constitutes an attack on the entire Atlantic Alliance. “The basic concept is that if you were to take one of our citizens, we would come together on a voluntary basis to ensure that these issues do not remain bilateral.”
The concept also has roots in discussions with officials in the United Kingdom, Champaign said, and has garnered support from the “Five Eyes”, the Group of Seven, the European Union and other countries elsewhere in the world.
“Canada’s declaration against arbitrary detention is an important moment for the international leadership, which brings together like-minded allies to take a stand against this unacceptable practice,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the United States “wholeheartedly” supported Canada’s declaration.