Turkey slow but firm on int’l Khashoggi probe

Turkey slow but firm on int’l Khashoggi probe

One of the sourest incidents of 2018 was the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi death squad deployed to Istanbul upon the orders of the members of the senior Saudi administration on Oct. 2. 

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the most brutal way in the premises of the Saudi Arabian Consulate-General in Istanbul. Turkish intelligence and law enforcement have uncovered almost all details of the murder, although Khashoggi’s body was never found due to non-cooperation by the Saudi authorities.

As a result of a successfully conducted communication strategy, Saudi Arabia had to admit the murder but sought to cover up the crime through a court case that gave the death penalty to five of the suspects. However, the Saudi probe fell short of identifying who was behind the killing of the dissident journalist in Istanbul.

As was expected, the international community’s attention and interest in resolving the Khashoggi murder has started to fade away as time passes. That’s why a visit by Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, accompanied with a delegation, to Turkey last week was very timely and beneficial.

The delegation met with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, prosecutor İrfan Fidan, and National Intelligence Organization (MIT) chief Hakan Fidan as well as non-governmental organizations and journalists during a five-day trip to Ankara and Istanbul.

Four months after the killing, this visit led to re-flourishing of hopes for a substantial investigation to be carried out by the U.N. in order to find out who is responsible for the brutal killing of Khashoggi. She is going to provide her findings and recommendation on the murder investigation as a report in the U.N. Human Rights Council session scheduled for June.

But Turkey, as stated by Çavuşoğlu, will not wait for the release of the report for an appeal to launch an international probe into the killing. In an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News last week, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey will sure launch an international probe although there would be no other country joining it.

According to Turkish officials, cooperation with Callamard and her team will continue hereafter. The U.N. rapporteur is expected to pay a visit to the U.S. and hold similar talks with the American officials, including the CIA, over the killing of Khashoggi. Although her report will be ready in June, her works will also be important for Ankara’s preparations for an appeal to an international probe. Turkey’s U.N. permanent representation will closely follow the case before an application is made.

However, there are still hurdles before launching an international probe on the murder. First, because any such attempt will target the Saudi leadership and there will not many prominent countries that would be willing to do so. It’s already the case that not so many Western powers are showing a continued interest in further digging the Khashoggi case.

That makes a U.N. probe impossible because of the fact that no resolution to this end may be approved by the permanent members of the board. That’s why an investigation would be led under Callamard’s authorization and it would “review and evaluate, from a human rights perspective, the circumstances surrounding the killing of Khashoggi,” as suggested by the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.

It is going to be seen whether her report will accuse Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of ordering the killing of Khashoggi but it’s not hard to expect that she will be under huge pressure while reporting her conclusions.

Another important dimension is over the future of Turkey-Saudi Arabia ties in the event that the Turkish government moves forward towards an international probe with an objective of enduring its pressure on the Saudi administration.

There are widespread concerns in Ankara that Turkey’s targeting of the Saudi monarch family would cause a backfire and therefore endanger bilateral ties. A number of Turkish businessmen still operate in this country through investments and other sorts of economic activities, and deterioration in ties would introduce additional risks on their presence.

A move by Turkey would sure be seen as a direct attack against the Saudi administration although President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had ruled out that Turkey had no such intentions. Already on different pages over a number of regional political issues, a continued spat between Ankara and Riyadh would kick off new conflict between the two powers. That’s, in fact, the main reason why Turkey is taking a process for an international probe slow.