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Joint Statement against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations

Delivered by Ambassador Jocelyn Kinnear, 1303rd meeting of the Permanent Council, 18 February 2021.

Madam Chairperson,

I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of Albania, Andorra, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and its Member States, and Canada.

The arbitrary arrest or detention of foreign nationals to compel action or to exercise leverage over a foreign government is contrary to international law, undermines international relations, and has a negative impact on foreign nationals traveling, working and living abroad.

The Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State relations was launched in Ottawa, Canada, on February 15, 2021, with the aim of enhancing international cooperation to end this practice. The Declaration was endorsed by 58 countries and the European Union. Of this number, 38 are OSCE participating States.

Today we reiterate here at the OSCE the values and principles contained in the Declaration, including the respect for human rights, rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international and regional human rights instruments.

We are deeply concerned that arbitrary arrest, detention, or sentencing of foreign nationals to exercise leverage over foreign governments undermines the development of friendly relations and cooperation between States, international travel, trade and commerce, and the obligation to settle international disputes by peaceful means. This erodes the foundations of the rules based international system that nations have long strived to build.

Furthermore, the use of foreign nationals as bargaining chips undermines international relations, sows mistrust among nations, and can become a significant source of tension or exacerbate existing disagreements. In a world where there are many competing interests, this can act as further ammunition to highlight states’ differences rather than focusing on the many ideals that we hold in common and the many shared challenges we face as a community of nations, such as climate change, terrorism, and pandemics to name but a few.

The Declaration raises the alarm on the abuse of State authority, including judicial authority, to arbitrarily arrest, detain or sentence individuals to exercise leverage over foreign governments. We hereby call on States to respect their obligations related to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, as well as to refrain from this abhorrent practice.

We also reaffirm the fundamental importance of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, respect for human rights, and respect for the obligation to provide consular access in accordance with international law, including the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and other applicable international instruments.

We call upon States to take concrete steps to prevent and put an end to harsh conditions in detention, denial of access to counsel, and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals who are victim of this practice and reaffirm the urgent need to provide them with an effective remedy. We call for their immediate release.

Together, we stand in solidarity with States whose nationals have been arbitrarily arrested, detained or sentenced by other States seeking to exercise leverage over them, and acknowledge the need to work collaboratively to address this issue of mutual concern at the international level. This applies equally to dual nationals, in accordance with endorsing countries’ laws on nationality. We will work to defend the international rules-based order from further erosion, which can only lead to the increased possibility of conflict between States, which in itself is a concerning threat to collective security.

We welcome all members of the OSCE who share our commitment against this practice and to human rights principles to join the 38 OSCE participating States in endorsing the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State relations and to join the international coalition in our efforts to eradicate once and for all the practice.

Thank you Madam Chairperson.