Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador over human rights dispute
The Saudi Arabian foreign ministry has recalled its ambassador from Canada in response to the country's statement of concern over the arrests of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabian foreign ministry also given the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country and is freezing all new trade and investment deals with Canada.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry in a statement slammed as “totally false” allegations by the Canadian authorities that recent arrests of several civil society activists were unwarranted.
It said that the arrests were made by “the competent authorities” and the detainees were provided with all the rights guaranteed during investigative and trail stages. The ministry denounces Canada’s stance as “explicit interference in the internal affairs” of the kingdom that runs “contrary to the most basic international norms and charters that govern relations between countries.”
On Friday, Canada called on Riyadh to “immediately release” civil and human rights activists recently arrested by the Saudi Arabian authorities, including Samar Badawi, an internationally recognized human rights defender.
Badawi and another high-profile Saudi women's rights activist, Nassima al-Sadah, were arrested in Saudi Arabia last week, sparking an international outcry.
In 2012, Badawi received an international Women of Courage award in a ceremony in Washington.
Human Rights Watch announced that Riyadh has arrested two prominent women's rights activists in an "unprecedented" crackdown on opposition.
The UN has also voiced concern over the widening clampdown on opposition in Saudi Arabia, its' human rights office (OHCHR) calling the spate of arrests that has been ongoing since spring “apparently arbitrary detentions.”
Since May 15, at least 15 critics of the Saudi government have been detained, the office noted on Tuesday.
Since May, a number of prominent women’s rights activists were arrested and still remained in detention centers without charge and incommunicado with no access to their families or lawyers. Most of the detainees are prominent figures, who enjoy considerable respect among the Saudi grassroots, including university professors and a psychotherapist.
Saudi authorities have so far labeled the detainees “traitors”, infuriating the country’s rights activists who fear additional arrests amid much-hyped reports of reforms led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Reforms have been accompanied by a heavy-handed crackdown on dissent, which has targeted clerics as well as some of the very female activists who campaigned for years to end the driving ban.