Medicine Hat News
Canada, dozens of allies, declare arbitrary detentions immoral amid Kovrig, Spavor
Canada and a coalition of 57 other countries offered vocal support Monday for a new international declaration denouncing state-sponsored arbitrary detention of foreign nationals for political purposes.
The new declaration was born out of a year of behindthe-scenes diplomacy, spearheaded by former foreign affairs minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, and was the result of a campaign to free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who spent their 798th day in Chinese prisons on Monday.
While ending Kovrig’s and Spavor’s Chinese imprisonment remains Canada’s top priority, the new declaration was meant to be a broad denunciation to also end the coercive practice in other countries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea.
In an interview, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau wouldn’t name specific countries, saying the new Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations is “country-agnostic.” He said he wants to recruit more countries as signatories with the goal of ending the practice everywhere and to discourage other countries from taking it up.
But Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, was blunt about blaming China and the case of the “two Michaels” as a particularly egregious example.
“The Chinese government’s detentions of the Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor epitomizes this despicable practice,” Roth told the 2-1/2-hour virtual launch of the initiative.
Roth said China has also subjected Australian citizens to similar tactics.
China became incensed as Canada built the coalition of countries to speak out on behalf of Kovrig and Spavor. China warned Canada of negative consequences if it continued to do that.