On October 25th 2018, the European Parliament approved a resolution on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia has continued to arrest, prosecute and imprison journalists, political activists and human rights defenders. The death of Khashoggi puts Saudi’s authorities under a spotlight creating the opportunity to put an end to continuous human rights violations.
This October’s Plenary Session saw the European Parliament (EP) sending a clear message to the Saudi authorities on Khashoggi’s death, its disappearance and extrajudicial killing in the Consulate in Istanbul. The European Parliament resolution was voted in Strasbourg adopted with the simple majority of votes. Many in the international arena have been raising their voices in order to find out the truth on Khashoggi’s disappearance: the government of Saudi Arabia is now under the spotlight for this tremendous death.
Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist, reporter and author, he was the General Manager and Editor-in-Chief of Al Arab News Channel. He began his career as a correspondent for the Saudi Gazette Daily, continuing his career as a journalist for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers until 1990. He was appointed as a foreign correspondent to cover events on Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the Middle East from 1991 to 1999. Khashoggi served as editor for the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al Watan, considered the pioneering reformist newspaper in Saudi Arabia. For decades, he was close to the Saudi royal family also serving as an adviser to the government until Khashoggi criticized the arrests of human rights defenders and the reform plans of the Crown Prince, and lived self-imposed exile in the US.
On September 2018 he first visited the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to obtain certifying documents of his divorce and later returned to the Consulate on October 2nd. Khashoggi entered in order to obtain documents for his planned marriage and as no camera recorded his exit from the Consulate he was declared missing. Saudi Arabia consistently denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance claiming that the reports on his disappearance or possible death were false accusations.
Turkish officials soon claimed there was evidence that he was murdered in the Consulate, but Saudi officials did not admit he had been murdered until more than two weeks later. Saudi’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir declared that the killing of the journalist was part of a rogue operation from authorities inside the Consulate, declaring that they had done a tremendous mistake.
The EP Resolution condemns the torture and killing of Jamal Khashoggi urging Saudi authorities to disclose the whereabouts of his remains and recalls that “the systematic practice of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings constitutes a crime against humanity”. The resolution calls for an independent investigation and, on those responsible, to be identified and brought to justice, following international standards for a fair trial with international observers presents. The Turkish authorities are also called to cooperate and to make all information available in order to clarify what happened on October 2nd.
The Parliament calls on the VP/HR Federica Mogherini and EU Member States to stand ready to impose targeted sanctions as well as human rights sanctions against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on the perpetrators and on the masterminds and inciters of this crime once the facts have been established. During the investigations the VP/HR, the EEAS and the Member States are called to conduct a structural dialogue on “human rights, fundamental freedoms and the country’s troubling role in the region within the framework of EU relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council”.
Moreover, the resolution condemns more broadly “Saudi authorities’ ongoing harassment of human rights defenders, activist lawyers, journalists, clerics, writers and bloggers both within and outside the country, which undermines the credibility of the reform process in Saudi Arabia” encouraging the Kingdom to take necessary steps to allow the exercise of rights freely and without judicial harassments. Defending freedom of expression, a free press and ensuring the protection of journalist is of great importance and it is unacceptable under any circumstances threatening, attacking or killing journalists. Therefore, the resolution asks Saudi authorities to immediately release all human rights defenders detained and sentenced for expressing their opinion and carrying out peaceful human rights work, notably the case of Raif Badawi.
The EP appeals to the EU and its Member States to take a strong position in upcoming international commitments such as the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on November 5th, where Saudi Arabia will present its human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Before the approval of this resolution the VP/HR delivered a speech in the Plenary: a crime against a journalist in the world is a crime against freedom of expression and speech. Saudi Arabia has arrested a number of officials related to the case but yet many details about the killing are still missing. The resolution strongly condemns the brutal murder which is a violation of human rights obligations.
On behalf of the S&D Group Victor Bostinaru condemned the horrific manner in which it appears the prominent journalist and opponent has been tortured, murdered and dismembered by agents close to the Saudi regime referring that the explanations given by Riyadh are insufficient and absolutely not credible. They are mostly a whitewash of an appalling and flagrant assassination and violation of human rights, and of diplomatic and consular law. Bostinaru asks for a collective, clear and loud response that goes beyond the short-lived international uproar.
Both the resolution and the debate in the plenary session mention that this tremendous killing has to be followed by targeted sanctions in order to put an end to the systematic violations of human rights by Saudi’s authorities. On behalf of the EPP Group, Tunne Kelam affirmed that it is practically impossible that the Saudi Crown prince was not informed of the murder’s plan and that stopping arms sales to the country, at least temporary, is needed. Pier Antonio Panzeri, member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, reaffirmed that once again, the changes announced by Bin Salman were nothing but a cover while the regime continued to behave in authoritarian and repressive way. Therefore, the EU and its Member States should suspend trade in weapons and impose targeted sanctions to Saudi’s leadership.
Undoubtedly, this resolution aims at underlining the horror of this crime and highlighting the violations of human rights perpetuated by Riyadh. ECDHR is pleased that the EP has adopted this resolution; however, even if the parliament has expressed a strong and determined position against Saudi’s authorities, the continuous violation of human rights, the continuous arrests, persecutions against journalists and activists requires more concrete actions: cosmetic reforms can no longer cover the fact that Saudi Arabia is committing rampant and systematic human rights abuses, including shuttering freedom of speech.