Saudi Arabia Expels Canadian Ambassador And Freezes Trade Over Human Rights Criticism

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Saudi Arabia has informed the Canadian ambassador that he has 24 hours to leave the country, being deemed persona non grata, and informed Ottawa that all new trade and investment with Canada would cease immediately. This is the response to criticisms of Saudi Arabia’s violation of human rights, women’s rights, and other civil society activists in the Arab kingdom.

On Friday, a statement calling for the release of Samar Badawi, who was arrested in Saudi Arabia, and is the sister of imprisoned liberal blogger Raif Badawi, was lodged by Global Affairs Canada. The request was received by the Saudis, who remained mostly tight-lipped regarding it, until just hours ago when they dropped the news that they were effectively cutting ties with Canada.

The news is so recent, that the international community has not yet had time to react and issue statements regarding what has been deemed by some Middle East reporters as a “hostile action,” and “out of control.” When Saudi Arabia had strong disagreements with Qatar, they sent notice to all Saudi students studying in Qatar that they needed to return to Saudi Arabia, something many are hoping will not be repeated with Canada. In a move that has been deemed “remarkable and bizarre,” Saudi trolls have been online for nearly two full days ranting about the unjust treatment of Quebecois and indigenous people by Canada.

As reported by Global News Canada, the Saudi foreign ministry released a statement early Sunday that accused Canada of interfering in their affairs, and that they had done nothing unlawful in detaining Badawi, or anyone else.

“The persons referred to were lawfully detained by the public prosecution for committing crimes punishable by applicable law, which also guaranteed the detainees’ rights and provided them with due process during the investigation and trial…Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs.”

Regarding trade, Saudi Arabia has put all new trade and investment on hold, while also stating they are reserving the right to “take further action.” Bloomberg reports that the trade flow between the nations currently stands at about $3.23 billion annually, based on 2017 numbers, with Saudi Arabia exporting approximately $2.14 billion to Canada annually. More will not be known about the specifics of the freeze until Canada’s global affairs department makes a statement. The Wall Street Journal reported that the cancellation of new trade between the nations is expected to have negligible economic impact on either side, if any. Neither side has released any official statement regarding the situation since the expulsion order for the Canadian ambassador was handed down.