Jamal Khashoggi’s Children ‘Pardon’ Their Father’s Killers: Why Though?

In what initially appeared to be an admirable demonstration of strength and courage, the children of Jamal Khashoggi publicly expressed their forgiveness to father’s assassins in a recent tweet. This announcement will in all likelihood spare the lives of five Saudi officials who have each been convicted and sentenced to death for Khashoggi’s murder.

Salah Khashoggi, the eldest son of the late journalist, took to Twitter on Friday May 22, calling for the implementation of a Saudi judicial provision, which allows victims’ families to grant amnesty to committed murders in some capital cases. “On this virtuous night of (Ramadan), we recall the words of God Almighty… whoever pardons and makes reconciliations, his reward is from Allah,” wrote Khashoggi, referring to Laylit el Qader, which according to CNN, is Islam’s “holiest night of the year.” Salah further stated that “we, the sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we have pardoned (those) who killed our father.” 

In the decades before his death, Jamal Khashoggi reported on a variety of international human rights disputes, including coverage of the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Osama Bin Laden. He wrote on behalf of several Saudi news agencies and quickly developed strong ties with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) and the House of Saud.

However, after becoming highly critical of MBS, Khashoggi fled to the United States, where he would continue to expose the monarchy’s abuse of power and determination to suppress political dissent as a columnist for The Washington Post.

Upon visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to pick up a divorce document, Khashoggi was abducted, tortured, and eventually dismembered by as many as 15 Saudi agents, according to Turkish officials. The CIA confirmed later that year that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s execution based upon their intelligence findings. MBS has denied any involvement in the assassination, and while initially covering the murder up, the countries rulers eventually acknowledged that Khashoggi had died inside the consulate and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

Considering the ruthlessness and manner in which Khashoggi was killed, worldwide opponents of the death penalty will likely applaud the apparent mercifulness of Salah and his siblings. However, human rights experts have voiced concerns that the Khashoggi children’s pardon may have been coerced.

Since their father’s murder, Salah and three of his siblings have received tens of thousands of dollars of financial support and millions of dollars worth of real estate from the Saudi monarchs. The New York Times reported in April 2019 that these payments are likely “part of an attempt to deter the Khashoggi children from speaking out against the kingdom’s de facto ruler, (MBS).”

The Times further commented that “(MBS’s) father, King Salman, had ordered the payments shortly after he had first learned that Saudi agents had ambushed and killed Mr. Khashoggi and that the payments were intended as a form of financial support, without conditions, that would continue indefinitely.”

These reports are unfortunate but consistent with Riyadh’s routine attempts to obscure the truth and escape justice for hampering freedoms of speech and expression. Considering that the Saudi rulers are notorious for suppressing any ounce of political opposition against the royal family and that Salah and several other family members either live or work in Saudi Arabia, the task of persuading the Khashoggi children to issue a pardon could not have been that entirely difficult.

It is also unsurprising that the Saudi judicial system, which is heavily reliant upon religious law and lacks any credible or codified legal stature, designated this case to fit the criteria to allow the Khashoggi children the opportunity to pardon the five convicted men. UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard recently called the pardon in an official statement “a parody of justice,” further illuminating how the entire legal process of Khashoggi’s murder “has been a travesty of justice.” Khashoggi’s fiancee has also spoken out against the pardon, stating that “no one has the right to pardon (Khashoggi’s) killers,” and that “I and others will not stop until we get #JusticeForJamal.”

Some might argue that the pardon offers an opportunity for healing and reconciliation to occur, further providing a chance to resolve this case in a non-violent manner. While capital punishment is inherently cruel and inhumane which will not bring Khashoggi back to life, completely pardoning five individuals who ruthlessly took the life from this journalist is no acceptable means of justice either.

Those who were responsible for this horrific killing must be held accountable, as the world cannot tolerate the execution of highly respected journalists who expose governments suppressing political activism. This includes not just those who committed the act, but also those who gave the order for the execution to be carried out, which is why western nations must ensure that MBS is brought to justice.

Peter Koenigsbauer