Jamal Khashoggi killing was ‘message’ to deter Saudi regime opposition

The fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi says she believes his brutal killing was authorised by the “highest levels” of the Saudi regime.
credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

05 Dec 2019

Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, Hatice Cengiz told this website, “I cannot really imagine what the Saudi state thought it could achieve by killing Jamal but, maybe, after the Arab Spring, they were saying: Either you are with us or, if not, look at what will happen to you.”

Khashoggi was a Saudi Arabian dissident, author and columnist for The Washington Post who was assassinated at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in early October last year.

Cengiz was in Brussels with Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to demand “more action” by the EU and the international community in the Khashoggi case.


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Their comments are timely as Saudi Arabia took over the G20 presidency from Japan at the weekend.

Cengiz, a researcher who is based in Istanbul, called for an “independent and impartial” investigation into his death.

Explaining the impact the killing had had on her, she said, “At first, I could not accept what had happened. How are you expected to feel when someone you love has been slain in such a way? However, when I saw how ineffective the reaction was from the international community, I felt inspired to speak out.”

“My aim, despite the disappointing response, is to keep the issue alive. Those responsible, including at the highest levels of the regime, need to be held to account for what they did.”

“This was the murder of a journalist which was authorised by the state. That should be a matter of concern for everyone” Hatice Cengiz

“I want those people to lose sleep over this - including those who gave the orders for his death - and to be punished. This was the murder of a journalist which was authorised by the state. That should be a matter of concern for everyone.”

Speaking through an interpreter, she added, “There can be no justice for Jamal – he is not coming back. But he stood up for the voiceless in Saudi Arabia and the least I, and we, can do now is to do the same for those still languishing in Saudi jails.”

She contrasted the reaction of the EU and rest of the international community with Turkey which, she said, had “done all it can” to investigate the murder.

Callamard, echoing her comments, told reporters at Brussels Press Club that the EU had failed to hold the Saudis to account for the murder, which shocked the world and led to limited sanctions being imposed on the regime.

The French official said, “These sanctions are ineffective and inadequate. They target only low-level individuals and not those at the highest levels, including the Crown Prince, as should be the case.”

She added, “Initially, the EU issued strongly-worded statements about the killing but since then its response has been extremely disappointing, in line with the rest of the international community.”

“One of the reasons we are here in Brussels today is the say to the EU that we are not prepared to let this happen and want it to remedy the situation.”

“Initially, the EU issued strongly-worded statements about the killing but since then its response has been extremely disappointing, in line with the rest of the international community” Agnes Callamard, Special UN Rapporteur

She said there had been a “seeming unwillingness and passivity” to hold the Saudi regime to account for the journalist’s killing, adding, “Everyone seems to want to return to a ‘business-as-normal’ routine with the Saudis and that is just adding insult to injury in this case.”

“The international community has failed in its duty to ensure that the state cannot act with impunity and immunity.”

Both women have urged G20 countries to scrap Riyadh as the venue for the showpiece G20 summit next November, saying it would be a “mistake” and would send the wrong signals to victims of human rights abuses in the country.

Callamard added, “If it does go ahead in Riyadh there should, at the very least, be a special session on press freedom.”

She also called for a moratorium on European sales of surveillance technology to Saudi Arabia, saying this was being used against journalists and civil society.

As the crime happened on Turkish soil, she also said Turkey had a responsibility to ensure that the culprits are put on trial in the country and that this happens “without delay.”

“A trial in Turkey would be a major step towards uncovering the truth about what happened,” she noted.

Both Callamard and Cengiz were due to meet MEPs and EU officials later on Tuesday to update them about the case.

Amnesty International issued a stinging rebuke of Saudi Arabia this week, accusing the regime of attempting to “sportwash” the country’s tarnished image. This comes ahead of a world boxing title fight in Riyadh this Saturday.

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