Speech by Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Evarist Bartolo at the virtual launch by Canada of the declaration bringing together 58 countries including Malta as a coalition of international partners that denounce the use of arbitrary detention of foreign nationals.

Malta commends Canada for the initiative to launch a declaration against the use of arbitrary detention of foreign nationals in state-to-state relations. The declaration states: “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. Foreign nationals abroad are susceptible to arbitrary arrest and detention or sentencing by governments seeking to compel action from other States. The purpose of this Declaration is to enhance international co-operation and end the practice of arbitrary arrest, detention or sentencing to exercise leverage over foreign governments.”

It is important that we come together as individual countries within the international community to renew our commitment to abide by the international human rights law as we cannot have global peace and security if citizens are deprived of their human rights to be used in disputes between one state and another. Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states clearly: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

Arbitrarily detaining nationals of other countries, depriving them of any of their rights and subjecting them to ill treatment or punishment can never be justified. From time to time differences are bound to arise in our relations with each other as states but we need to patiently persevere to resolve them peacefully through dialogue within the framework of the rule of law. Let us not use our citizens as bargaining chips or political tools in our disputes.

Whenever we have might is right, the big imposing on the small, human civilization and the most vulnerable persons and countries suffer. We must resolve our differences according to the principles of the United Nations include the equality and self-determination of nations, respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

These rights were formulated by persons coming from different political systems, cultures and religions to apply to everyone in the world. Promoting them should not be seen as interfering in the internal affairs of our countries. At the same time let us not weaponize human rights by invoking them selectively and only when and where it is politically convenient for us.

Every citizen has the right to treated as a human being with all the dignity and rights all human beings deserve: the Right to Equality, Freedom from Discrimination, the Right to Life, Liberty, Personal Security, Freedom from Slavery and Freedom from Torture and Degrading Treatment. These rights that were enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human rights after the catastrophe of the Second World War 73 years ago are as relevant as ever. They are not only our past but also our future.

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