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Canada holds firm in human rights dispute with Saudi Arabia Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Canada holds firm in human rights dispute with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia announced punitive measures against Canada for its criticism of the kingdom [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 August, 2018

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Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland refused to give ground in a dispute with Saudi Arabia on Monday, saying her country would 'always stand up for human rights around the world'.

Canada's foreign minister refused to give ground in a dispute with Saudi Arabia on Monday, saying her country would always remain steadfast in championing human rights around the globe.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told a gathering of German diplomats in Berlin that "Canada will always stand up for human rights around the world, very much including women's rights".

The official did not cite Riyadh by name but added Canada would voice its concern for human rights "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".

Ottawa and Riyadh are at loggerheads over Canada's criticism of Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

Two weeks ago Canada sparked fury in Riyadh by calling for the immediate release of detained activists, including award-winning women's rights campaigner Samar Badawi.

Saudi Arabia froze all new trade and investments with Ottawa, ordered thousands of Saudi students out of Canada and pledged to stop all medical treatment programmes in the country.

State-owned airline Saudia also suspended flights to Toronto.

In the end, Riyadh gave their students an extension until 22 September, according to several universities.

Last week, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is engaged in talks with the kingdom amid the diplomatic dispute.

Trudeau made the remarks on Thursday, again criticising Riyadh over the potential death penalty against a female rights activist, Canadian outlet Global News  reported.

"We continue to engage diplomatically with Saudi Arabia, I think it's important to have positive relationships with countries around the world," Trudeau said.

"At the same time, we have expressed our concern with the sentence handed down by Saudi Arabia, our concern for defending human rights and our shared values all around the world," he added.

Human rights groups say Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five human rights activists, including, for the first time, a woman.

The five stand accused of inciting mass protests in mainly Shia areas of the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province.

Human rights groups say that the execution threat is a calculated bid to stifle dissent.

"Canada will continue to stand up strongly for human rights," Trudeau said.

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