It is grotesque abuse: a government seizing foreign nationals and imprisoning them –- separating them from their families, often without legal redress -- to gain leverage over another country.
A broad coalition of nations has now formally come together to denounce the practice.
Led by Canada, fifty-eight nations, including the United States, Australia and Japan and almost all the members of the European Union, have endorsed a declaration condemning state-sponsored arbitrary detention of foreign nationals for political purposes.
The declaration affirms the principles of human rights and the rule of law concerning arbitrary detention as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The declaration affirms that its signatories “stand in solidarity with States whose nationals [including dual citizens] have been arbitrarily arrested, detained or sentenced by other States seeking to exercise leverage over them and acknowledge the need to work collaboratively to address this issue of mutual concern at the international level.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Canada for leading the way on this important issue and for obtaining the endorsement of many countries. In a statement, he called arbitrary detentions in State-to-State relations a “heinous act against the human rights of the individuals in question,” and “an affront to international diplomatic norms.”
At a virtual declaration announcement ceremony hosted by Canada and attended by high-level officials from dozens of countries, Secretary Blinken called the practice “completely unacceptable:”
“This kind of arbitrary detention goes against the human rights of the people being held. It brings anguish to their families. And it’s a threat to anyone who travels, works, or lives abroad. It’s time to send a clear message to every government that arbitrarily detains foreign nationals and tries to use them as leverage: this will not be tolerated by the international community.”
“The fact that so many countries are endorsing this declaration is a sign of its strength,” Secretary of State Blinken said. “Now let’s keep the momentum going. I urge more countries to join us in making it clear that arbitrary detention has absolutely no place in state-to-state relations. Human beings are not bargaining chips. This is a matter of human rights and the rule of law. We’ll stand up for both –- together.”