INTERNATIONAL LAW VIOLATIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN THE MURDER OF JAMAL KHASHOGGI

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Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered on 2 October 2018, in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by a 15-man team that arrived directly from Riyadh, including a forensic expert hired to tear the journalist’s body apart. 

Besides the human and moral concerns, it is more than necessary to point out the legal violations linked with this murder and look for those responsible for this disconcerting event, which involves unsurprisingly also the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud.

After having self-exiled in the US for his dissident activity and after his divorce, Mr. Khashoggi started a new life between the United States and Turkey, where he found his new fiancée and future wife, Hatice Cengiz. 

In order to marry, the journalist needed a paper from the Saudi Consulate, and to get it the appointment was set on 2 October 2018, around 1 PM, from which he will never come out alive.

From various interceptions, it was very clear that the victim was surveilled by the Saudi intelligence, and the appointment in the Consulate was the perfect occasion to resolve the Khashoggi’s question. 

Indeed, that day the majority of the Saudi Consulate staff was sent home and people close to and working for the Saudi Crown were sent in Istanbul, including a man, Mustafa Al Madani, of similar appearance to the journalist, used to stage his exit from the Consulate.

After having rejected all the allegations and claiming that Khashoggi had left the Consulate safe and sound, on 19 October 2018 the Saudi Public Prosecutor has admitted that the death of the journalist occurred in the Consular office.

It is an understatement to say that this is one of the most serious and controversial cases of recent years, with principals, executors, closed-door trials and many lies.

Despite the Saudi government continues to reject the accusations of having ordered the murder, it is really difficult to believe that such a detailed operation, that sees involved prominent figures belonging to the security services and also a forensics doctor, could have been organized and executed without the consent of the real controller of the Saudi decision-making and security systems: Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

This has been stated also by the Office of the Director of American National Intelligence in a Report, Assessing the Saudi Government’s Role in the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi, published on February 11th, 2021, in which are listed 21 people believed to be complicit in or responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, acting on behalf of MBS, among whom:

Saud bin Abdullah al-Qahtani, Saudi Royal Court Advisor;

Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, Saudi Intelligence Officer;

Naif Hassan Saad alArifi, Saudi Official:

Salah Al Tubaigy, Saudi Forensic Doctor;

Abdulaziz Mohammed alHawsawi, member of the Saudi Crown Prince’s Security Team;

Waleed Abdullah Al Shihri, member of the Royal Saudi Air Force;

Fahad Shabib Al Balawi, member of the Royal Family’s Security Team; 

 Meshal Saad AlBustani, Officer of the Saudi Air Force;

Turki Al Shehri, Chief Executive Officer;

Mustafa Al Madani, Kashoggi’s “body double”;

Ahmed Zayed Asiri, Senior Officer in the Ministry of Interior;

As it has been declared by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, these officials acted in their capacity as State officials, with State means at their disposal, so the responsibility for this murder is not only individual but also ascribable to the Saudi state.

In the first place, there is the violation of the right to life of the journalist, a jus cogens norm also contemplated in the Arab Charter of Human Rights ratified by Saudi Arabia in 2016, and his freedom of expression and press.

Then, after having abused of diplomatic privileges, with the use of diplomatic passports and having used the Consulate as a slaughterhouse, also the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations has been infringed, which states in art.55 that the consular premises should not be used in contrast with the exercise of consular functions, implemented in full respect of the laws and regulations of the receiving State.

Another violation is found in the extraterritorial use of force by Saudi Arabia, such as the use of force by a State against groups or individuals outside an armed conflict situation contemplated also by art. 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, because Khashoggi has been killed in Turkey not for terrorism or other criminal activities, since there were no allegations against him, but only for his public criticism of the Saudi Crown.

So, starting with Turkey and the United States, in which Khashoggi was resident, the whole International Community should be concerned about the Saudi way of resolving “unpleasant situations”, and the first steps should be the imposition of severe and concrete sanctions, the closure of all the diplomatic and consular offices of Saudi Arabia and then start an international trial, capable of ensuring full justice to the victim and his family, but it is hard to believe that this is going to happen soon.

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