Canada stands firm on human rights as Saudis escalate retaliation – but oil will flow

Samar Badawi seen here with Mrs. Clinton and Michelle Obama during women of courage ceremony. Badawi is latest member of her family to be jailed allegedly on national security grounds. Her brother, a human rights blogger and her husband, a human rights lawyer are already in jail. Her brother's wife and three children live in Quebec.

Ottawa – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says the arrests of dissidents is not over human rights but an issue of national security.

“The matter is not about human rights; it is a matter of national security. The individuals were in touch with foreign entities and enemies overseas,” foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The Saudis continued their assault on their economic ties with Canada, first ordering the 15,000 Saudi students to relocated to other countries, stopping grain imports from Canada and then selling their investments in the country.

However, In a statement issued on Thursday, Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources, Khalid Al-Falih, reaffirmed that the petroleum policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia emphasizes that the Kingdom’s petroleum supplies to countries around the world are not to be impacted by political considerations, Al Arabia reported.

“Al-Falih reiterated that this is a firm and longstanding policy that is not influenced by political circumstances,” according to Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia does not accept dictates or interferences in the Kingdom’s internal affairs,” Al-Jubeir said.  “The issue has been imposed on us by a blatant and unacceptable interference in our affairs by Canada.

He further stated that, “Canada must correct its actions towards the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia build relations based on mutual respect of sovereignty of States.”

“Saudi Arabia is looking at implementing additional measures,” Al-Jubeir added. “Saudi Arabia did not interfere in the affairs of Canada.”

The Saudis have set up 24/7 operations rooms to assist Saudis affected by the row and retaliatory measures following Canada’s expression of support for dissident women arrested by Riyadh.

Among those arrested is Samar Badawi. She’s the sister of blogger Raif Badawi who is imprisoned and was publicly flogged. Her husband, a human rights lawyer was earlier jailed on terrorism charges.

Amnesty international said on August 1 that Badawi was arrested to suppress dissent – something the young de-facto ruler Prince Mohammad bin Salman finds intolerable.

“The arrest of two more prominent women human rights activists in Saudi Arabia is further proof of a crackdown that shows no sign of relenting,” Amnesty International said.

“Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada were detained earlier this week, Amnesty International has learned. They have both been repeatedly targeted, harassed, and placed under travel bans for their human rights activism.

“This unprecedented level of persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia is a disturbing sign that the crackdown is far from over,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director.

“These brave women represented the last vestiges of the human rights community in the country, and now they too have been detained. Saudi Arabia’s new leadership under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has crushed any space for the existence of human rights defenders in the country.”

Qatar – the tiny gulf country was targeted in a similar manner by Saudis – banning travel and commerce. Their key concern in the tiff with Qatar appeared to be Al Jazeera TV.

The Saudis and other despotic regimes are concerned free media and free speech will sooner or later create rebellions with their tightly controlled nations. So far, only Egypt, Bahrain and Russia have come out in support of Saudi Arabia.

The US has remained quiet, leading commentators to suggest it’s the least of Trump’s priorities to speak out about human rights violations or come to the aid of Canada – a neighbour and defence partner.

Canada’s external affairs minister Chrystia Freeland yesterday spoke at length with the Saudi foreign minister about the row, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Montreal on Wednesday.

But Trudeau vowed to continue to speak out about human rights, supporting an earlier statement by Freeland.

“Canadians have always expected our government to speak strongly, firmly, clearly and politely about the need to respect human rights at home and around the world,” he said.

“We will continue to stand up for Canadian values and indeed for universal values and human rights at any occasion. That is something I will always do,” Trudeau added.