RNA - Presenting the conclusions of her five-month investigation to the Human Rights Council, Agnes Callamard, the UN expert, said that Khashoggi was killed last year in an operation that was carefully planned and endorsed by high-level Saudi officials.
Saudi Arabia had taken some measures to investigate the crime but had failed to address the chain of command, Callamard said, including the role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who American intelligence officials have concluded ordered the killing. “A UN criminal investigation is essential in order for these central questions to be addressed,” she said.
Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, also urged the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, to use his influence to garner support for an international investigation. “I want to know who ordered the killing of Jamal and who else knew,” she said in a brief statement to the council. “I want to know where is his body.”
It is now an established fact that Khashoggi was deliberately killed at the hands of state actors and journalists around the world are increasingly seeing the same fate. What’s more, Callamard has determined that Saudi Arabia is “responsible” for the “extrajudicial” murder of Washington Post writer Khashoggi.
This killing was a result of an elaborate mission involving extensive coordination and significant human and financial resources. It was overseen, planned, and endorsed by high level officials and it was premeditated. The right to life is a right at the core of international human rights protection. If the international community ignores targeted killing designed to silence peaceful expression, it puts at risk the protection on which all human rights depend.
Since it occurred at a consulate in Turkey, the killing cannot be considered a “domestic matter” and violates the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations as well as the prohibition against extraterritorial use of force in times of peace, making it an international crime.
There is now the need to establish a UN criminal investigation to ensure the delivery of justice, as the inquiry undertaken by the Saudi authorities was woefully inadequate. The investigation carried out by the Saudi authorities failed to address the chain of command. It is not only a question of who ordered the killing - criminal responsibility can be derived from direct or indirect incitement or from the failure to prevent and protect.
As always, Saudi Arabia continues to deny its involvement and rejected the new report, stating that it is based on “prejudice and pre-fabricated ideas.” While the killing of Khashoggi was brutal, his story is just one of many cases of targeting journalists around the world. This execution is emblematic of a global pattern of targeted killings of journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 80 journalists were killed, 348 imprisoned, and 60 held hostage in 2018, reflecting an unprecedented level of violence against journalists. Javier Valdez Cárdenas, a Mexican journalist who investigated cartels, was killed in May 2017.
Just days after, Valdez’s colleagues and widow began receiving messages infected with a spyware known as Pegasus, which was bought by the Mexican government from Israeli cyber warfare company NSO Group. According to the NSO Group, Pegasus is only sold to governments for the purposes of fighting terror and investigating crime. However, digital watchdog Citizen Lab found 24 questionable targets, including some of Mexico’s most prominent journalists.
According to Fars News Agancy, the program has also been used elsewhere by repressive governments such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which target and imprison human rights defenders for their social media posts. In Canada, critic of the Saudi regime and friend of Khashoggi, Omar Abdulaziz, was also infected with the spyware by a Saudi Arabia-linked operator.
However, the time is now for the UN to urge Saudi Arabia to release those imprisoned for their opinion or belief and to undertake an in-depth assessment of the institutions that made the crime against Khashoggi possible. There are clear signs of increasingly aggressive tactics by Saudi Arabia, using Israeli spyware to permanently silence those who criticize the regime. The international community must take stock of these hostile environments, it must take stock of the findings of the UN investigation into the killing of Khashoggi.
Denunciations are important, but they are no longer sufficient. The international community must demand accountability and non-repetition. It must strengthen protections and prevention urgently. Silence and inaction will only cause further injustice and suffering.