Two years on, questions linger over Khashoggi's murder
Hazal Özcan – ANKARA
Two years ago today, prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul to acquire official documents for his planned marriage, not knowing that he would not be able to get out.
As the world marks the second anniversary of Khashoggi’s death on Oct. 2, there are still many questions lingering over his death with feelings of unease, anger, and injustice.
On the occasion of Khashoggi’s death anniversary, Hürriyet Daily News held interviews with Agnes Callamard, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and with Hatice Cengiz, the late journalist’s fiancée.
While Callamard said Khashoggi being targeted may be because he was becoming more active in working on initiatives, Cengiz said that there is still danger posed, with justice not being served properly after his killing.
After Khashoggi’s murder, Callamard prepared a very detailed report on every aspect of the killing, saying there is a possibility of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman having given the order.
“There is circumstantial evidence pointing the finger at the crown prince. But there is no material evidence at this point suggesting that he was directly involved. Circumstantially, there are very strong evidence pointing to the responsibility of the crown prince either because he ordered or because he failed to prevent at the minimum,” Callamard told the Hürriyet Daily News.
When asked if there were any counter arguments Saudi Arabia made against Callamard’s reports, she said that “they attacked and criticized” her work.
“But they have done so in very general or political ways. I have not found any letters from them detailing where my report had failed and where I was incorrect in the report,” she said.
Regarding comments finding the international community’s response to Saudi Arabia and the role of the United States in this, Callamard said that there have been reactions, yet maybe Saudi Arabia’s economic and geostrategic influence weakened the reaction that should have been given.
“[Saudi Arabia] is an essential player in the international community. That could explain why the reactions have not been as strong as they should have been. I will not suggest that there have been no reactions. I think there have been a lot of reactions made in the U.N.,” she said, referring to recent criticisms such as some cities boycotting the G20 meeting.
Saudi Arabia paid a price diplomatically
“In the diplomatic field I think Saudi Arabia has paid a price for the killing of Khashoggi. But in terms of strategic importance or economic importance, there have been very little sanctions or at all,” she added.
About the possible protection the U.S. had provided to Saudi Arabia and the U.S. influence on other countries, Callamard said: “I don’t think protection from the White House influence other countries. Because other countries have to take their own responsibilities for their behaviors. [White House’s] protection also undermined democratic institutions and democratic decision making in the U.S.”
“The protection that is being given to Saudi Arabia by western executives is undermining the western democracies,” she said.
Khashoggi raised red flags in Saudi Arabia
When asked what the real motive was behind the killing, Callamard said there were multiple motives from Khashoggi having an influence in Saudi Arabia and on the international arena to him working on initiatives with other activists.
“He was becoming increasingly critical of the ruling by the crown prince. I think he had a great deal of legitimacy in Saudi Arabia in his critique. So that made him particularly dangerous,” Callamard said.
Conveying that Khashoggi was under surveillance by Saudi authorities, the U.N. official said that Riyadh would have learned about his “initiatives to counter Saudi propaganda and strengthen the impact of democratic calls.”
“He was getting organized; he was moving from being a man of words to a man of action. I suspect that would have raised red flags in Saudi Arabia,” she said, adding that there is also the impact of the reinforcement of repression in the kingdom.
Int’l community should protect journalists everywhere
While expressing the “inhumane and shameful” aspects of Khashoggi’s murder’s aftermath, on the whereabouts of his remains still not being known, Callamard also called on the international community to protect journalists across the globe.
“In my view, the international community must do all it can to send a very strong message to any government, any rulers, who attempt to silence journalists in one way or another. Wherever they are, we must be standing up and we must be responding very strongly to those attempts to curtail the freedom of the press and the freedom of the public to get information,” she said.
Callamard’s report was ‘significant’
Meanwhile, Cengiz underlined the importance of Callamard’s report, while saying that the countries reacted weakly against the Khashoggi murder.
“Of course, it was normal that the [murder] shocked the international arena. During his career, Jamal traveled to numerous countries and had a remarkable number of friends in every country. Additionally, since he was one of the leading intellectuals in his country, he was way beyond the point of journalism. The fact that he was murdered and was even deemed fit for such a gruesome murder shook the international community’s conscience,” she said.
“It can be said that the people and the civil society in the international community used its power all the way. Yet, consequently, the countries effective in politics, who had the power to impose sanctions, and the power they hold on to raises the question as to how they use it amongst the current balance of power,” Cengiz added.
Trump left morals and ethics behind
On Trump’s role in the lack of response against Saudi Arabia, Cengiz said that the U.S. president tackled the issue by looking only at the economic means and he “left morals and ethics aside.”
“It seems like the U.S. administration under Trump’s leadership impacted the reactions of European countries as well. For member EU countries, a weak voice would not have solved the issue thus they passed it over with consequent condemnations,” Cengiz added.
Regarding the judiciary process in Saudi Arabia and the lack of transparency criticisms it has gotten over the past year, Cengiz said, “The process completed there has nothing satisfying with law, truths or the serving justice.”
Cengiz also expressed gratitude to Turkey with the stance it took after the murder and its efforts to take the issue on the international arena.
“In this sense, I thank and congratulate [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and his team,” she said.
Cengiz also spoke about the emotions she had felt after Khashoggi’s murder and how she was unable to truly experience her pain while being on a quest for his justice and letting everyone know of the developments.
Jamal was targeted because of his pen’s power
When asked about what motives Crown Prince Mohammed may have had to order the killing of Khashoggi, Cengiz said: “Although the crown prince said that he did not give the order for the murder, he also said that all responsibility of the murder lies with him. I think this is an answer given only to confuse.”
“Honestly, I am still curious about why this murder was committed even though two years have passed, and the Saudi authorities closed the case with questions lingering over how and why they ruled. If it was the crown prince who gave the order, he should be held accountable and should not be able to run away from giving account,” she said.
Cengiz also said that if a crime goes unpunished, it will make all “lose a sense of the importance for justice.”
“I think Jamal was the voice of reason and conscience. He thought that he could do best by writing against the things happening in his country. Apparently, the power of his pen, which he acquired by merging his experience, knowledge and career, very much disturbed them. I think that’s why he was targeted,” she said.
“For this very reason, today, Jamal has become an icon of writing in the Middle East’s quest for freedom and democracy,” she added.
No one has the right to forgive killers
When asked about her comments on the forgiveness Khashoggi’s family granted to Saudi Arabia, Cengiz said, “We do not know that kind of pressure and threats the family was under.”
“In normal conditions, I think it is a decision not taken by their own will,” Cengiz said.
She also added that the son referred to an Islamic verse in his statement yet said that there is no forgiveness for the murderers of someone, done by a country in a planned way.
“In this aspect, no one has the right to forgive anyone for the murder of Jamal.”
On the other hand, Cengiz also talked about the kind of a person Khashoggi was. She described the late journalist as someone who “talked little, listened much, made the maximum effort to comment without judgment and had a very improved humanitarian side.”
“I think that Jamal had almost all qualities that a person would want to have. He was patient and tolerant. If I were to describe Jamal in one sentence, I would say he was modest, profound and friendly,” Cengiz said.