States, too, have egos in international affairs. The simple tweet made on Foreign Policy Canada account that has called on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record confirms this. The outraged Saudi regime has suspended trade ties with Canada and expelled its ambassador after Ottawa urged it to release jailed human right activists.
Ruling out the possibility of mediation, Riyadh is considering further punitive measures against Ottawa. The relations are going to further deteriorate between the two sides, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also resolute not to apologise for Canada’s statement.
Will the international criticism prove enough to improve human rights in the kingdom? Being a country not dependent on foreign aid, Saudi Arabia will not succumb to international pressure and outcry for its worst human rights record. Riyadh has shown such an attitude many a time.
The reason Ottawa called on Saudi Arabia for releasing rights activists is that detained activists include a Canadian citizen as well, Samar Badawi. It would have been far wiser approach had Canada chosen diplomacy over outright calls on Riyadh’s worst human record.
Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia, too, needs to review the latest crackdown it has carried out against those who argue for granting of social and political rights. The latest round of arrests makes an unprecedented and unrelenting crackdown on all forms dissent and criticism in the country.
The contradiction in Riyadh’s policies is glaring. On the one hand Riyadh detains rights activists, and on the other hand, it takes credit for reforms. These arrests were made haphazardly without letting people know about the charges on which these imprisonments were made.
While Muhammad bin Salman was hailed as a reformer sometime ago, the irrational anger shown to the tweet will backfire on him. However, both sides need to resolve the deteriorating relations through diplomacy. At the same time, Riyadh needs to respect due process and make all information public regarding the arrests of the activists.