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The Khashoggi Case

Ayşe Serra Ünaldı

Bilkent Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler

Jamal Khashoggi was a very successful Saudi journalist and served as an adviser to the government for years. However, since he used his writings to criticize the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, he was banned from tweeting and writing articles by the instruction coming from the government. Khashoggi self-exiled to the United States and he continued 1 writing against the Crown Prince as a columnist for the Washington Post. On 2 nd October 2018, he was murdered during his visit to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey. Today, it is still a mystery what has happened inside, and even though there are some evidence and speculations against Bin Salman, the Saudi government insisted that the murder was a “rogue operation” and not planned by the Crown Prince. Khashoggi’s case has become a very critical concern of international 2 society about the human right to life and also, it put the discussions of freedom of expression and press.

Saudi Arabia is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) or to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, but, it is a party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). All three actors of this incident 3 –Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the US– have agreed to this treaty, to different degrees. Even though each state has declarations and reservations, they have not interfered with the main content which is to define and prohibit torture under international law. The act of killing Khashoggi violates 4 customary international law as well since all states are condemned for using torture under the principle of customary law, which is inexcusable to break. Saudi Arabia is also a part of the Arab League, which includes the Arab Charter on Human Rights and Article 32 of the Arab Charter “guarantees the right to information and to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medium, regardless of geographical boundaries.”

There are shortages in international law that fail the system when it comes to critical cases. International law works if states want to work, not because they are forced by a court or police, or by the fear of imprisonment. For example, Saudi Arabia is not a state party to the ICCPR, so there are no legal obligations that bind it. This shows that some rights, such as the right of expression, are not fully respected and protected, and there is no absolute guarantee that the international protection treaties are successful in their implementation . Moreover, the five 7 permanent countries of the United Nations Security Council, which also have the veto power, create a direct inequality in the international system. In the case of Khashoggi, when a member state wants to start an international investigation for the accusations about the Crown Prince, the United States uses her veto power to hamper the investigation to protect her economic interests with Saudi Arabia. All states want to act in a way that benefits them, and the current system combined with this self-interest creates inequality and injustice, and will probably continue to create in the future if everything remains the same.


Marko Milanovic. The Murder of Jamal Khashoggi: Immunities, Inviolability and the Human Right to Life. Human Rights Law Review. 2020. p. 1–49. DOI: 10.1093/hrlr/ngaa007.

Kaitlin Araghi. Killing Khashoggi Under International Law. Prized Writing 2019 – 2020. Volume 31, 2020. The Regents of the University of California. Migel Apriliyanto, Made

Maharta Yasa. KHASHOGGI CASE AND THE ISSUE OF HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION OF JOURNALISTS. Jurnal Kertha Patrika. Vol. 40, No. 3. December 2018, p. 131-140.

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