The murder of Jamal Khashoggi
The murder was carried out in a gruesome and brazen manner. The world must closely watch how the case unravels, because there’s danger that powerful countries will use the incident as a bargaining instrument for power play and concessions, and not espouse its condemnation and prosecution for the evil deed that it is.
Jamal Khashoggi was a dissident Saudi journalist who was critical of his own government, especially of its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi had published articles calling for gender equality, freedom of expression and the separation of church and state in his country.
Khashoggi went into exile when he felt hostile pressure from Saudi authorities. On Oct. 2, 2018, he went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée, who was waiting outside the building. Khashoggi never got out of the consulate, and he has never been seen alive again.
Saudi authorities initially claimed that Khashoggi left their consulate alive, and surveillance camera images were leaked showing him getting out of the consular premises and going to various places in Istanbul.
Then, explosive evidence started to gradually leak, revealing that Khashoggi had been the victim of a murder most foul. It turned out that the person who got out of the consulate was a “body double” who was made to wear Khashoggi’s clothes. The decoy was allegedly part of a 15-man hit squad sent to Turkey from Saudi Arabia with the aim of killing Khashoggi.
Turkish authorities leaked that they have in their possession audio recordings proving that Khashoggi was beaten, tortured and killed inside the consulate. The recordings reportedly indicate that Khashoggi was beheaded, dismembered, and his fingers severed within minutes from his entry into the consulate.
The audio recordings also purportedly disclose that the squad team responsible for the killing included a Saudi forensic doctor who was brought along for the disposal of Khashoggi’s body. The doctor reportedly advised his team members to listen to music as they proceeded to cut off Khashoggi’s head and dismembered his body.
Within two hours from the killing, the perpetrators left Turkey for Saudi Arabia. Another news outlet reported that Khashoggi’s body parts have been unearthed from the grounds of a Saudi consular officer’s residence in Istanbul.
Saudi authorities changed their story by next claiming that Khashoggi had died as a result of a fistfight inside the consulate. This is eerily similar to the “nanlaban” story of Philippine policemen in the war on drugs. The Saudi government now claims that those responsible for Khashoggi’s killing tried to cover it up.
There’s a palpable attempt by Saudi authorities to limit liability for the killing to lowly officials. There’s evidence, however, that those involved include high-ranking Saudi intelligence officials who are close to the Saudi de facto ruler.
There’s also an evident scheme by Turkish authorities to informally leak the existence of evidence damaging to high-ranking Saudi officials. The full and formal release of such evidence, however, is being made to hang over their heads like the Sword of Damocles, thus leaving the Saudi royalty subject to Turkey’s manipulation.
US President Donald Trump has flip-flopped from outright condemnation to muffled denunciation of the killing. Trump has hastily declared that any sanctions against Saudi Arabia will not include the cancellation of billions of dollars in
US weapons sales to that country. Condemnation from European countries has also been muted, because Saudi Arabia
is a Middle Eastern country strategic to their interests.
The Khashoggi killing shows that if human rights advocacy is made dependent on the espousal of it by individual countries, it merely becomes an additional weapon used to advance state interest. This demonstrates all the more the importance of preventing the virtual dismemberment of the International Criminal Court, as the impartial arbiter of human rights accountability across nations.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.