By Hamzah Alkinani
Last Wednesday October 2nd, marked a year since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi – a murder so gruesome it shock the international community and the entire fraternity of global media. Although a year has passed since he was murdered, very little is known about the details of Khashoggi’s disappearance. Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist, and a United States resident who vanished inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
At the time of his killing, Khashoggi was visiting Turkey to obtain marriage documents for the wedding that he and his fiancée were planning It is suspected that Khashoggi was assassinated by agents of Saudi Arabia acting on the orders of the Saudi prince.
Khashogg’s murder led to a major public outcry and attracted significant attention from the international community. However, very few high-profile western leaders directly confronted Saudi Arabia on the matter For instance, despite Khashoggi being an American resident, the U.S. president Donald Trump and his administration let the Saudi government off the hook. This was seen as move by America to try and ensure that its relationship with Saudi Arabia remains intact. During the G20 summit last year, the former UK Prime Minister asked the Saudi prince to carry out thorough investigations but did not show great concern on the matter. The European Council’s President did not even implicate the Saudis as he was raising his concerns on the matter. This shows complete lack of care from these leaders who at first seemed agitated by Khashoggi’s murder.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission carried out its own inquiry into Khashoggi’s murder. Based on the Turkish government’s investigation, the inquiry found this to be a prime facie case (United Nations Human Rights, par. 10). Their report claimed that Mr. Khashoggi was a victim of premeditated killing orchestrated by the State of Saudi Arabia. They also discovered that the Saudi government interfered with the crime scene investigation and the Turkish investigators were only allowed into the consulate on October 15 of and into the consulate residence on the 17th. The evidence made available to the UN commission shows that prior to October 15, four attempts were made to eliminate forensic evidence. Saudi Arabia’s delay tactics that limited access to the scene of crime made it difficult for Turkish criminal forensic investigators to gather the appropriate evidence. Saudi Arabia’s actions clearly show that they were not willing to let investigations take due course and be conducted in the right manner.
Khashoggi’s murder case raised many questions on criminal accountability across foreign borders. The inability of a government to arrest the perpetrators within another country’s borders is made clear in this incident. In addition, it also brings to light some critical issues regarding legal implementation and shortcomings of diplomatic immunity. Khashoggi’s killing also shows the continued harshness of media restrictions in the Arab world. This is not the first incident where journalists have been treated with brutality. For instance, twenty-seven journalists, four media workers and five bloggers and a citizen journalist are currently detained in Egypt. This restrictions against the media has put democracy in jeopardy and has led to infringement of various human rights.
Khashoggi’s murder has caused much anguish to his family and friends. This has been further amplified by the absence of his body. Despite admitting that Khashoggi met his demise in the Saudi consulate, the Saudi authorities are yet to provide any information concerning his body. As the anniversary date of Khashoggi’s murder passes, pressure is mounting on Saudi government to show progress in their investigations on Khashoggi’s murder. However, the Saudi government has made very little progress in investigating this incident. So far, only eleven suspects have been arrested and tried secretly with very few hearings having been held.
If the international community let this murder go unpunished, we have a bleak future for writers, journalists and media professionals even though who are Americans, or based in the United States and work for the leading newspapers such the Washington Post.
That’s why the persecution of this crime to the fullest extent of the laws, will not only serve justice for Khashoggi, but also reinforce safeguards for the media practitioners around the world.
Hamzah Alkinani is an adjunct legal fellow at the Institute for Gulf Affairs.