Commuting death sentences of Jamal Khashoggi’s killers a ‘travesty’, say MEPs and NGO

Jamal Khashoggi

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

11 Sep 2020

Two MEPs and a leading NGO have condemned the decision to commute the death sentences handed out to five people convicted over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The court in Saudi Arabia handed out jail terms of between seven and 20 years.

Khashoggi’s fiancée said the ruling made “a complete mockery of justice.”

The Saudi government said the journalist was killed in a “rogue operation” and the following year Saudi prosecutors put 11 unnamed individuals on trial.

Marc Tarabella, a Belgian Socialist MEP, called for an international investigation on the court verdict “so that justice is finally done.”

“Credibility does not come with nice words. It comes with consistent action. To what degree the Saudi regime is willing to deliver on the latter still remains to be seen” Hannah Neumann MEP

“As a reminder, this Saudi American journalist was killed and then cut into pieces in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. It has all the signs of a parody of justice and, in this trial, opacity was the watchword.”

“The people behind the murder of Khashoggi were never hassled during the two years of investigation. The seven people convicted are small fry that the authorities have thrown to the outside world to respond to the international indignation caused by this heinous murder,” added Tarabella, deputy chair of the delegation for relations between the European Parliament and the Arabian Peninsula delegation.

He went on, “The idea that the agents acted on their own does not convince anyone. The total lack of transparency around the trial and the anonymity of the murderers still punctuate a humiliating masquerade not just for the victim, his family and relatives but also for all defenders of human rights and freedom of expression around the world.”

“I am therefore adding my name to the list of those calling for an international inquiry to explore all leads, so that finally justice is done.”

Further comment came from German Greens MEP Hannah Neumann, who told this website on Thursday, “It is nearly two years since Khashoggi was brutally killed in Istanbul. Parliament has always called for an independent and impartial international investigation and a fair trial in accordance with international standards, including the presence of international observers. None of this has happened.”

“As a reminder, this Saudi American journalist was killed and then cut into pieces in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. It has all the signs of a parody of justice and, in this trial, opacity was the watchword” Marc Tarabella MEP

“The outcome of the trial earlier this week is a missed opportunity for the Saudi authorities to demonstrate commitment to human rights. It sends a chilling message to all critical voices in Saudi Arabia. Many of these activists are behind bars for their peaceful actions and should be released immediately.”

She concluded, “Credibility does not come with nice words. It comes with consistent action. To what degree the Saudi regime is willing to deliver on the latter still remains to be seen.”

Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, a Brussels-based NGO, told The Parliament Magazine, “The trial of the alleged perpetrators of Khashoggi’s premeditated extrajudicial execution at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is a travesty of justice.”

He added, “Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, took the initiative to carry out her own investigation in 2019 and concluded that there was ‘credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including that of the Crown Prince.’”

Fautré said, “It is now up to those states which have the competence to exercise jurisdiction under international law over this crime of extrajudicial execution to take the necessary measures to identify and prosecute those who ordered the killing but remain unpunished. Silence and inaction would kill Khashoggi a second time.”

“The trial of the alleged perpetrators of Khashoggi’s premeditated extrajudicial execution at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is a travesty of justice” Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

The issues of hate speech, press freedom and disinformation were discussed by Parliament’s Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on Thursday.

Committee chairman, Spanish Socialist Juan Fernando López Aguilar, said, “This is a topic which is essential to us all because breaches of press freedom undermines democracy.”

Polish EPP member Magdalena Adamowicz said there had been some 300 amendments to her report which was under discussion.

She said, “Press freedom is the biggest threat to democracy right now. During the pandemic and in recent years the situation on press freedom has deteriorated with threats to media freedom at a global level. There’s also a rising tendency to incite violence against journalists.”

Bulgarian RE MEP Ramona Strugariu said press freedom safeguards were “more necessary than ever” because “standards are deteriorating by the day. In Bulgaria we have recently seen images of reporters being beaten, attacked and brutalised by the police. Those responsible must be brought to justice because we cannot have immunity for those involved in such crimes. Journalists will not feel safe until justice is delivered.”

The Commission is shortly due to present its assessment of how effective existing tools for fighting disinformation online have been. It is thought it will say that the idea of platform self-regulation is good but that “in order to ensure a complete and consistent application the Code should be further improved.”

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