Statement issued by Hon. Peter Kent, Official Opposition Foreign Affairs Critic on UN Human Rights Commission

November 03, 2016

OTTAWA, ON – After attending an event hosted by the Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs with the President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, the Hon. Peter Kent, Official Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs issued the following statement:

"It is abundantly clear that Canada and Saudi Arabia have starkly different definitions of Human Rights. It was also abundantly clear that Liberal ministers are reluctant to speak to those stark differences and the broad range of Saudi human rights abuse.

"Saudi Arabia continues to arbitrarily arrest, try and convict peaceful dissidents in a highly flawed judicial process.

"Long prison sentences are imposed on citizens who advocate peaceful political reform. Some of these political prisoners continue to languish in custody long after their sentences expire.

"There has been a dramatic increase in executions in the past two years. Most executions are by beheading. Almost half of the more than 150 individuals executed in 2015 were convicted of non-violent crimes. In January, 2016, 47 men were executed for alleged crimes of terrorism including a prominent Shia cleric, convicted after what was widely seen as a deeply flawed trial.

"Saudi authorities continue to discriminate against women and religious minorities. Saudi judges apply harsh sanctions, drawn from uncodified Islamic law, against individuals accused of homosexuality.

"Due process is selectively absent in the Saudi criminal justice system. Arbitrarily arrested citizens are routinely sentenced to flogging. Children can be tried for capital crimes and sentenced to death.

"Prominent social media blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and one thousand lashes for creating a reform-advocating website and allegedly “insulting” religious authorities.

"In the absence of a codified penal code, judges and prosecutors can criminalize unfounded accusations by declaring the accused guilty of “breaking allegiance” with the King or “trying to distort” the reputation of the Kingdom.

"I attended Minister Dion’s roundtable with the Saudi official, not in recognition of the misleadingly-named Human Rights Council he heads, but to forcefully promote Canadian values of democracy, free speech, freedom of the press, and the full and equal rights of women.

"I was disappointed in the lack for frank and forceful condemnations of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses by the Liberal ministers in attendance."

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For more information:

Saro Khatchadourian
Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition
613-314-423