June 28, 2019
By Hamzah Alkinani
The United Nations Human Rights Council’s report “Annex to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions: Investigation into the unlawful death of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi” provides a detailed analysis of the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist. Khashoggi who was murdered 2nd of October, 2018 inside of the Saudi embassy in Istanbul by being withheld, tortured, suffocated, dismembered by a team of Saudi security agents.
According to the UN report, the assassination was premeditated, sanctioned, and executed with the knowledge of high-ranking members of the Saudi government. The report also states that whereas the murder shocked the international public, the responses of many governments to the assassination have significantly been largely underwhelming. According to the UNHRC, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have both undertaken independent investigations into Khashoggi’s killing, yet the processes mired in inconsistencies, and some of the resultant investigation reports were withheld from public record. Saudi Arabia’s own efforts to prosecute individuals responsible for the brazen and brutal murder have not held or include any senior officials to accounts for sanctioning the killing or explained who issued orders for the murder. Based on the findings of the report, the UNHRC recommends a variety of state-level and international actions to ensure that justice prevails in the case of Khashoggi’s assassination and that similar outright breaches of human rights and international law do not recur in the future.
The case of Khashoggi’s murder highlights an increasing trend towards negligence of international human rights laws by the Saudi government. The inaction of major global players on the issue sets a bad precedence for both Saudi Arabia and other regimes across the world that widely and openly contravene human rights conventions. Saudi Arabia’s government has leveraged the country’s economic and geopolitical prominence to avoid being held accountable for its sustained campaign against political dissidence. There are substantial clues linking Saudi Crownprince Mohammed bin Salman to Khashoggi’s murder since an operation of this scale cannot be inconceivably carried out without the knowledge and awareness of the crown prince, the day to day ruler of the country. In spite of his role in the murder, very few prominent people, and countries are willing to rebuke his actions publicly.
More also, as stated earlier, none of the senior officers invloved in the murder have been subjected to trail. This emphasizes the role of the crownprince in the murdere. Given the Saudi government’s human rights record, it is mots likely that the real perpetrators, who orchestrated Khashoggi’s murder, will escape being brought to justice for their actions.
If the international community does not act in accordance with the recommendations of the report, the Saudi government will likely continue its sustained campaign against political free speech, suppressing human rights and ignoring international accords. The government may tone down its actions against political dissidents for a while until the controversy dissipates, but the higher-ups will not have any real commitment towards moving the country in a sustainable position with regard to human rights. As such, it is crucial for the international community to act resolutely in condemning the Saudi government for its involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, as well as other less prominent cases of dissident suppression. It is only through unequivocal international condemnation and action that the Saudi government will feel pressured to abide by the international human rights laws that it sensationally claims to abide by, while concurrently engaging in blatant efforts to quash free speech.
Hamzah Alkinani is a Ph.D. candidate in constitutional law in the United States