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I’m honored to participate in the launch of this initiative, and I’m grateful to Canada for their leadership.

Arbitrary detention in state-to-state relations is a serious problem. Put simply, this is when someone traveling or living abroad – for example, a businessperson, a tourist, or someone visiting family – is detained by the government and falsely charged or sentenced because of the country on their passport. Then they’re used to gain leverage in state-to-state relations. They become a bargaining chip – a human pawn.

It’s completely unacceptable. And it’s already prohibited under international human rights conventions. But some countries still do it, and we as a global community have to stand against it.

This kind of arbitrary detention goes against the human rights of the people being held. It brings anguish to their families. And it’s a threat to anyone who travels, works, or lives abroad.

It’s time to send a clear message to every government that arbitrarily detains foreign nationals and tries to use them as leverage: this will not be tolerated by the international community.

The fact that so many countries are endorsing this declaration is a sign of its strength. Now let’s keep the momentum going. I urge more countries to join us in making it clear that arbitrary detention has absolutely no place in state-to-state relations. Human beings are not bargaining chips. This is a matter of human rights and the rule of law. We‘ll stand up for both – together.

Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future