Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 and killed by operatives linked to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His body was dismembered, and his remains have never been found.
Saudi Arabia eventually admitted that Khashoggi was mistakenly killed in what it called a rogue operation but denied the Crown Prince’s involvement.
It rejected a recent US intelligence report that said it is “highly unlikely” Khashoggi would have been killed without the prince’s approval.
The debate with Parliament’s human rights sub-committee was timely on two fronts.
Saudi Arabia has been better known of late for serious human rights violations than sports spectacles, but it emerged this week that it could host the multi million euro heavyweight world title boxing match between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, with likely millions watching around the world.
The kingdom has also hosted the Dakar Rally, a legendary desert race.
Relations with the regime also came under the spotlight on Tuesday after British foreign secretary Dominic Raab was revealed to have told staff the UK intended to trade with countries with poor human rights records.
Raab had been speaking “openly and candidly” to Whitehall workers on a call with thousands of them.
“This was a horrific murder that demands a full and through investigation, one that leads to criminal consequences. The net must be truly closed so that if certain persons from Saudi try to travel to a European territory they know that they will be arrested” Rodney Dixon, lawyer for the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi
He was recorded on the call saying, “I squarely believe we ought to be trading liberally around the world. If we restrict it to countries with European convention on human rights-level standards of human rights, we’re not going to do many trade deals with the growth markets of the future.”
Rodney Dixon, the lawyer for the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, speaking to the human rights sub-committee a video link, said, “This [Khashoggi’s killing] was a horrific murder that demands a full and through investigation, one that leads to criminal consequences. The net must be truly closed so that if certain persons from Saudi try to travel to a European territory they know that they will be arrested.”
“We must close off all political and economic avenues to the Crown Prince and, please, let’s ensure that sanctions are imposed against the regime there.”
Dixon, who said he was also speaking for Khashoggi’s fiancée, said, “We are now at a critical point in this affair. We could just go on as if it’s business as usual or follow an alternative path in ensuring there can be no immunity for what are very serious, international crimes against humanity.”
“We must also make sure that all investments in Saudi Arabia and any sports washing are prevented. The regime has tried to invest in sport, including buying a football club in the UK, in order to cleanse its image. This was rightly stopped but, as important as some of these sporting initiatives may be, our security is paramount and they must be prevented.”
He told the committee hearing on Tuesday, “We must not turn a blind eye to the overwhelming evidence against the regime so let’s ensure that sanctions are imposed.”
“All the evidence goes in one direction but the person ultimately responsible continues to live his life normally. We have to ask if this is the kind of leader [the Crown Prince] that the EU wants to deal with? Is this the sort of leader it wants to sit at the table with and solve the many problems that we face? The answer is: surely not.”
“His fiancée has told me that she wishes to emphasise the message she has made to the EU and the wider international community that the fight on this is far from over and that the EU and others must give it the full attention that it deserves.”
“The Saudi regime must be aware of the damage to its image caused by this case and of its ruthless policies. The regime must also recognise its responsibility in his [Khashoggi’s] murder and must now commit to a more serious respect for human rights” Hannah Neumann, Greens/EFA
“She says that sanctions against the Saudi regime can and must be applied. She does not want empty gestures but something with real teeth.”
Dixon, based in the UK, said, “We have gone through all possible avenues to try to make sure that those responsible for this most gruesome murder are held to account.”
“His fiancée urges this Parliament and Council to take all possible steps to ensure her goal of obtaining justice for Khashoggi so that she can have closure and rest at night.”
“So far, no international investigation has yet been launched and no concrete steps have been taken to independently and thoroughly investigate what happened. All we have had so far are some low-level people being put on trial and light sentences being imposed on them.”
“This is about individual criminal responsibility. Khashoggi’s fiancée is not trying to conduct a witch hunt against the country and its people. But it is about targeting those holding power in the country and who are abusing that power.”
“The Crown Prince, as the person at the highest level, was the one who should be held responsible for this grisly murder.”
German Greens member Hanna Neumann reminded the meeting that Parliament had, in 2018, adopted a toughly-worded resolution on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.
Neumann told the meeting, “We have seen some recent positive announcements from the Saudi leadership but there are quite a number of issues that still need to be discussed, including the Khashoggi case.”
“All the evidence goes in one direction but the person ultimately responsible continues to live his life normally. We have to ask if this is the kind of leader [the Crown Prince] that the EU wants to deal with?”
Rodney Dixon, lawyer for the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi
“The EU has recently adopted new rules on global human rights sanctions to target those involved in serious abuses but the US has refrained from taking action against its Saudi ally and EU Member States have stopped short of action. This is why we now must re-evaluate the Parliament’s position on the Khashoggi case.”
“I agree that we need an independent investigation into the case and then a trial according to the highest international standards. We must make sure this does not end up being a dead letter.”
“The Saudi regime must be aware of the damage to its image caused by this case and of its ruthless policies. The regime must also recognise its responsibility in his [Khashoggi’s] murder and must now commit to a more serious respect for human rights.”
She added, “At the moment we just see one step forward and one step back because we still see women human rights defenders languishing in Saudi prisons. I very much hope that the country will become more inclusive one where men and women enjoy equal human rights.”
“The regime should do all it possibly can to improve the situation but it is our job to continue a dialogue with the Saudi authorities in order to help achieve this.”
Portuguese Socialist member Isabel Santos said, “The Khashoggi case, of course, has become very relevant on the international agenda but there are, unfortunately, many other such cases that are not publicised and remain silent.”
“What we have heard at this hearing shows there must be a big political change, including in the field of human rights, in Saudi.”
Another speaker, Saudi human rights defender Rachid Mesu, said, “We are at a crucial moment when it comes to human rights in the country and the new US administration, along with the EU, needs to remain a leader in this field.”
“Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal execution and must not be forgotten. Nor should we forget that the rights of thousands have been violated by the Saudi authorities with arbitrary political arrests, summary killings and torture.”
“This is a daily reality for men and women in Saudi who are sentenced by courts where the judges are appointed by the King and accountable only to the King.”
“These are crimes against humanity and there is no political will to improve the situation, in fact, quite the contrary because all dissident opinion is resisted. Such crimes should not go unpunished so it is important the EU continue its efforts.”
“We need adequate sanctions including an embargo of cyber security technologies which are currently used by the Saudis as tools of repression.”
“The EU should also create a special rapporteur on human rights abuses in Saudi as this would help coordinate international efforts on this.”
He told the Committee, “The same killer squad that killed Khashoggi was later sent to Canada to kill another dissident, fortunately without success, but we still see only superficial reforms and continued repression.”