Two Canadian political leaders urge Ottawa to lift “the veil of secrecy” over its 2015 assessment of Saudi Arabia’s human rights situation and show “transparency” on ties with Riyadh.
“I am deeply concerned that government officials have refused to release own assessment on the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia,” Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party of Canada, said in a statement.
The remarks came after Ottawa decided to allow a company to sell USD 15 billion worth of light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia despite the kingdom’s dire human rights record.
May said the Canadian people wanted a “real change” and voted in favor of “a transparent and accountable government instead of the veil of secrecy,” in reference to last October’s elections.
The Liberal Party decisively won the polls, ending almost a decade of Conservative rule which was known for its staunch support for Israel.
“Today, I call on the Prime Minister [Justin Trudeau] to reconsider this decision, stay true to his commitment of transparency, and release the government’s report on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record for all Canadians to see,” May said.
Under Canada’s laws, it is prohibited to export weapons to the countries that have “a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.”
Bruce Hyer, the deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada, also blasted the government for continuing the export of arms to Saudi Arabia regardless of its recent executions.
The kingdom put to death prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 others on January 2, causing international outrage and a serious escalation of tensions in the region.
Rights bodies have repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record, saying widespread violations continue unabated in the country.
A tally by the Associated Press based on reports by Amnesty International showed Saudi Arabia had carried out 157 executions in 2015. The executions were a record of the most capital punishments conducted in a single year since 1995.
Canada conducts regular human rights assessments of foreign countries, but it has not made public its 2015 report on the rights situation in Saudi Arabia.
Faced with pressure to release the document, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said earlier this week that he wanted to publish a redacted version of the report.