Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland says her country has always stood up for human rights around the globe, refusing to give ground in a bitter row with Saudi Arabia over the dire situation of human rights in the Arab kingdom.
“Canada will always stand up for human rights around the world,” the Canadian top diplomat said at an annual gathering of German ambassadors in the German capital Berlin on Monday.
The Ottawa-Riyadh tensions initially broke out earlier this month after the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh tweeted that it was “gravely concerned” over a spike in the arrests of human rights campaigners in the kingdom and called on “Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #human rights activists.”
Infuriated by the tweet, Saudi authorities expelled Canada’s ambassador and ordered home many of the kingdom’s students studying in Canada.
Riyadh also suspended all flights to and from Canada, halted trade with the country, and ordered its patients receiving treatment there to go elsewhere by the next month.
Saudi authorities have also urged Ottawa to apologize before relations could be normalized, but Canada has refused to back down.
That would hold true “even when we are told to mind our own business, or that matters such as these should only be discussed in private, between leaders, behind closed doors. And even when speaking up brings consequences,” Freeland further said, but did not specifically mention Saudi Arabia in her address.
“We count on and hope for Germany’s support” in defending human rights, she added.
On Saturday, Amnesty International voiced concern regarding the alarming situation of detained female Saudi activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, amid growing speculations that Riyadh might start to execute its jailed women rights campaigners.
Hathoul, already known as one of the most outspoken female critics of the kingdom’s human rights record, was first arrested in 2014 over charges of violating a Saudi law that banned women from driving after she tried to cross the border in her car from the UAE to Saudi Arabia.
She graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2013 and her situation has already caught international attention in light of problemsfacing the Saudi-Canadian ties.
Saudi Arabia is already subject to scathing criticism over its high rate of execution. According to Human Rights Watch, the country beheaded 48 people in the last 4 months, most of whom faced non-violent drug charges.