Canada launches multi-nation initiative to stop foreign citizen detentions | News | DW | 15.02.2021
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Canada launches multi-nation initiative to stop foreign citizen detentions

The 58-country initiative seeks to stop countries from detaining foreign citizens to gain diplomatic leverage. Canada has led the charge, denouncing what it calls "hostage diplomacy" with China and other countries.

A person's shadow can be seen on the ground alongside the bars of a prison cell

The signatories hope the initiative will raise pressure on other countries to stop arbitrary detentions of foreign nationals

Dozens of countries agreed to join an initiative to halt arbitrary detentions, with Canada announcing the move on Monday. Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau held a virtual event with other foreign ministers to unveil the initative.

Canadian officials told Reuters news agency the international effort was launched due to arrests of foreign citizens in China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Ottawa has slammed the practice as "hostage diplomacy."

"This illegal and immoral practice puts citizens of all countries at risk and it undermines the rule of law," Garneau said in a statement. "It is unacceptable and must stop," he added.

What is the initiative?

Foreign ministers from 58 countries signed a declaration to denounce arbitrary detentions.

The United States, Australia, the UK, Japan and nearly all of the European Union's 27 member states are among those who have signed on.

Although the declaration is non-binding, it's designed to serve as a deterrent and to increase pressure on other countries who have detained foreigners.

"Taking people from their families and using them as bargaining chips is both illegal and immoral," Foreign Minister Garneau told Reuters.

The United States said the practice of arbitrary detentions was an "affront to international diplomatic norms."

"When they are used, as too many nations do, to try to obtain leverage in state-to-state relations, they are a heinous act against the human rights of the individuals in question," US Secretary of State Secretary Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian aid worker, was detained in Tehran in 2016 and is under house arrest after being jailed on sedition charges

Why did they launch it?

Canada and the United States accuse China and several other countries of arbitrarily detaining foreign citizens in an effort to gain diplomatic bargaining chips.

In 2018, two Canadian nationals were detained in China after police in Vancouver picked up Huawei's CFO  while executing a US arrest warrant.

The British government has sparred with Iran over the detentions of dual nationals. In December, the foreign affairs committee in the British Parliament urged the government to declare the detentions of foreign nationals in Iran as "hostage taking."

rs,wd/aw (Reuters, AFP)

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