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May 29th, 2019

Statement on Canadian Human Rights Defenders Detained in Somaliland

Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, Cheryl Hardcastle, issued the following statement:

“New Democrats are deeply concerned with the situation of two Canadian citizens who were detained recently in Somaliland.
Maymona Abdi and Karima Watts travelled to Somaliland reportedly to help victims of extreme gender-based violence. They were arrested by police on January 19, 2019 for allegedly drinking alcohol in the city of Hargeisa.
They were held without trial and released on April 23, 2019. During their detention, they were reportedly forced to sign confessions and sentenced without trial to two and a half months in prison and forty lashes. They were denied access to basic medical aid and legal counsel and subjected to extreme psychological abuse and torture.
Ms. Abdi and Ms. Watts stated that it took two weeks before they were visited by Canadian consular services. They also stated that Global Affairs Canada (GAC) provided very little assistance and failed to adequately advocate for either their release or the improvement of their conditions.
The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs studied consular affairs two years ago, and one of the recommendations from the final report called on the Liberal government to develop service standards that set out concrete timelines for the formal assessment of allegations of torture or mistreatment of Canadians detained abroad.
In addition, in his report of Spring 2018, the Auditor General (AG) found that it took between one and six months for allegations of torture or mistreatment to be formally assessed by the Department. The AG also found that the Department did not provide sufficient training to consular staff on how to conduct prison visits.
It is unacceptable that, in light of such explicit recommendations, Ms. Abdi and Ms. Watts were subjected to such treatment. The NDP calls on the Liberal government to heed the recommendations of the committee and the AG, and protect and assist all Canadians detained abroad.”