Read, Debate: Engage.

Change.org petition calls on UN to conduct criminal investigation into Khashoggi’s murder

November 18th, 2019
by:Yair Oded
located in:Saudi Arabia, USA
tags:freedom of press, ICC, Jamal Khashoggi, protection of journalists, Saudi Arabia, United Nations, USA

It has been over a year since Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Although the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman categorically denies any involvement in Khashoggi’s assassination, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that he had in fact sanctioned the killing in retribution to the late journalist’s public criticism of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince himself. 

Alas, in spite of the mounting evidence implicating the crown prince in Khashoggi’s murder, little has been done by the international community to hold the former accountable and raise its voice in defense of journalists and activists fighting against tyrannical regimes.

A Change.org petition has been launched by Cindy Marabito in order to pressure the United Nations to conduct an official investigation into the murder of Khashoggi. Although the petition was launched two weeks after the murder, before some of the evidence pertaining to the murder was uncovered, its message is nonetheless still relevant, as the UN has yet to apply substantive pressure on Saudi Arabia and demand justice. 

The chilling inaction of world powers and international organisation on the matter has led to a renewed interest in the petition, which has thus far garnered over 78,600 signatures.

Khashoggi was not always a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia. In fact, for the first few decades of his career he had served as a high profile editor and consultant to the Saudi government and royal family, serving, among others, as a media adviser to the Saudi ambassador to the UK and then the US and deputy editor in chief of Arab News.

After vocalising his opposition to president Trump as well as Crown Prince bin Salman, Khashoggi had gone into self-imposed exile in the US due to fears of being arrested in the kingdom. Khashoggi then settled in Virginia and began working as a contributing columnist at the Washington Post, where he voiced more openly his criticism of the crown prince’s crack down on dissent in Saudi as well as his ongoing war in Yemen, which has produced the world’s most acute humanitarian crisis.

In 2018, Khashoggi had made a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in order to obtain documents that would enable him to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. Several hours later, his fiancée had raised the alarm to the Turkish authorities, stating that Khashoggi never emerged from the consulate building. 

While Saudi Arabia flatly denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance or knowledge of his whereabouts, information leaked by the Turkish authorities confirmed that the journalist was indeed murdered inside the consulate building by a Saudi assassination squad.

The damning evidence of this came from tapes recorded by Turkish intelligence, which apparently bugged the Saudi consulate. The tapes, which were listened to by Agnès Callamard, the UN's special rapporteur for extrajudicial killing, and a few members of her team. The recordings do not only indicate that Khashoggi was strangled to death and thereafter dismembered inside the consulate, but reveal conversations and phone calls made from within the consulate both prior to and on the day of the murder, in which he is being referred to as a ‘sacrificial lamb’.  

Callamard’s report concluded that the operation to murder Khashoggi originated in the highest circles of the Saudi government, which, as many other experts indicate, had to have been approved by either the crown prince or the king. “The operation was conducted by state officials, they were acting in their official capacities," Callamard told the BBC. "Two of them had diplomatic passports", said the report. Callamard also references a phone call from the consulate concerning Khashoggi made directly to the crown prince’s top communications aide, Saud al-Qahtani, who has been personally linked to several other campaigns seeking to hunt down dissidents. 

Callamard’s findings did not convince the UN, however, to mount an international criminal investigation into the killing of Khashoggi. 

Saudi Arabia has since shifted its position slightly on the case, stating that it will hold Khashoggi’s killers accountable, but insisting that the crown prince had nothing to so with the operation. Bin Salman stated so himself during a “60 Minutes” interview in September 2019, in which he stated that he takes responsibility over the killing as the Saudi leader but maintained that he had no ties to it personally.

In reality, there had been no consequences to Saudi Arabia’s brutal killing of its exiled dissident. Other than imposing sanctions against a handful of Saudi citizens reportedly involved in the killing, world powers continued to conduct business as usual with the kingdom and refused to take actions to hold the crown prince accountable—favouring the financial interest of powerful politicians and corporations over justice and the protection of democratic principles. 

One of the most disturbing responses to the killing came from US President Donald Trump, who stated that maintaining financial ties to Saudi Arabia took precedence over holding it accountable for murder. “We don’t like it even a little bit. But whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country… That would not be acceptable to me”, the president stated shortly after the killing. “I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country.”

Trump’s refusal to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia or condemn the crown prince remained intact even after Congress passed a bill to cut off American support for the Saudi-led War in Yemen (which he vetoed) and in the face of an assertion by the CIA that it had “high confidence” that bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashoggi. “[I]t could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event—maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”, the president wrote in a statement, dismissing the findings of his own intelligence community and reiterating that America’s financial interests come first.

The refusal of world governments and international organisations to take meaningful steps to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi’s murder has signalled to repressive regimes across the globe that they may proceed with their persecution campaigns unimpeded, and that their actions would bear no significant consequences as long as they cater to some sort of interest—be it financial, strategic, or political—of world powers. 

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Reporters Without Borders indicated that since Khashoggi’s killing “murders, imprisonment, hostage-taking and enforced disappearances of journalists have increased worldwide.” The organisation further reported that in 2018 alone, 80 journalists were killed around the world, 348 were imprisoned, and 80 were held hostage. The situation appears to be particularly dire across the Middle East, where any person voicing some sort of opposition to the ruling powers faces significant danger. In Egypt, 2,300 people were arrested in recent weeks after demonstrating against the president (some of those arrested did not even participate in the demonstrations), while in Sudan 100 people were massacred last June by militias during protests against the government. 

As Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, had told the BBC, “It's not only a tragedy for me - but for all humanity, all the people who think like Jamal and who took a stance like him."

Let us not remain indifferent to institutional corruption and opportunism which enable such tragedies to occur, and embolden world dictators to continue their onslaught on those who exhibit but the slightest of resistance to their regime. 

Even though Saudi Arabia is not a party to the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute, it could nonetheless be subject to investigation by it at the referral of the United Nations Security Council.  

Please sign Marabito’s petition and signal to the international community that the people of the world will not stand silently by in the face of such murderous quashing of dissent. 

Article written by:
yair oded profile
Yair Oded
Author, Project Editor, Contributing Editor
Support Fairplanet

We depend on readers like you to keep our impact journalism strong.

Fostering global inclusion all our journalists are being paid equally across the planet.

Thanks to a grant each first time user receives 100 coins (10 €) for FREE. Use the code "fairplanet" after clicking the donation button.

Or click the red info icon for instructions.

It has been over a year since Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Alas, in spite of the mounting evidence implicating the crown prince in Khashoggi’s murder, little has been done by the international community to hold the former accountable.
A Change.org petition has been launched by Cindy Marabito in order to pressure the United Nations to conduct an official investigation into the murder of Khashoggi.
map tooltip