On the 26th of February, the United States Office of The Director of National Intelligence released a declassified report about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Jamal Khashoggi’s death in 2018. The report claims that it has evidence confirming ‘Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, approved an operation in Istanbul to capture and kill the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi’. The report states that this conclusion was reached based on the ‘Crown Prince’s extensive control and decision making power in the kingdom at the time’. The report highlights that ‘he had absolute control on the kingdom’s security and intelligence organisations, making it highly unlikely for Saudi officials to carry out an operation of this nature without the Prince’s authorization’. The Crown Prince, who has been known for using ‘violent measures to silence dissidents abroad’, viewed ‘Khashoggi as a threat to the kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him’.
In response to the report, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister stated that the government of Saudi Arabia ‘completely rejects the assessment in the report… it contains inaccurate information and conclusions’. UN human rights investigator Agnes Callamard ,in a Facebook post, stated that the ‘US should lead in ensuring accountability for this crime and for setting in place the mechanisms to prevent and punish such acts in the future. the US should impose sanctions against the crown prince, as it has done for other perpetrators’. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, stated that the ‘U.S government must re-evaluate their relationship with Saudi Arabia’.
In October 2018, Khashoggi walked into a Saudi consulate in Istanbul and was killed, according to Turkish officials. He was a prominent Saudi journalist who would often criticize the Saudi government and The Crown Prince in his monthly Washington Post column. Khashoggi was outspoken in challenging the lack of freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia. In one of his excerpts from the Washington Post, Khashoggi wrote, ‘I have made a different choice now. I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot… Saudi’s deserve better’ .
Back in 2019, the UN published a report which claimed that Khashoggi’s death ‘constituted an extrajudicial killing for which Saudi Arabia is responsible’. The report further mentioned that ‘Saudi Arabia violated the Vienna convention and failed to adhere to the prohibition against extra-territorial use of force in time of peace, inconsistent with the purposes of the UN’. The UN described Khashoggi’s death as an ’emblematic global pattern of targeted killings and threats against journalists’. The UN has called ‘upon member states to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists, to ensure accountability, bring perpetrators to justice as well as providing journalist with a safe environment’.
Saudi Arabia has since received world wide condemnation in failing to adhere to the UN Human rights Charter and the Arab Chart on Human rights which ‘guarantees the right to information and to freedom of opinion and expression’: Article 32 (1). This charter should have protected not only Khashoggi’s inherent right to life but many other innocent journalist and advocates detained for speaking their truth, such as Loujain al-Hathloul whose human rights advocacy work was perceived as a threat to national security. Defending one’s right to freedom of speech should never be construed as a threat to national security. Foreign governments must do more to ensure that Saudi Arabia adheres to the UN declaration of Human Rights.