Saudi may think that it can rely on diplomatic immunity, but the Vienna Convention doesn’t in reality allow such stretching of the law. This is what the UK, Turkey and other countries can do next
After weeks of lies and misdirection, Saudi Arabia has finally admitted that Jamal Khashoggi died inside its consulate in Istanbul. The truth, however, is yet to emerge from the fog of deceit. There can be very few people in the around the world who will accept the Saudi explanation that a fist fight broke out, resulting in Jamal Khashoggi’s death.
The rest of the world still demands answers and the overwhelming evidence points to a deliberate, gruesome premeditated killing. The allegations of torture, and the butchery of Khashoggi’s body, are particularly shocking. Even more so if – as many commentators believe – they were deliberately ordered by the state.
A barbaric assassination and dismemberment which the Saudis have attempted to cloak in the shroud of their embassy and diplomatic immunity? Those crimes would rank amongst the very worst perpetrated in a diplomatic mission in modern times, with the use of diplomatic premises a terrifying development, indicating that Saudi Arabia has no regard for international law.
This case shows the legal crossroads that the international community has reached. A perfect storm of politics and law colliding means decisions as to what to do next are fraught with problems.
There are legal remedies available to Khashoggi’s fiancee though international bodies, but most of the legal consequences can be dealt with by Turkey. The question is how far Saudi Arabia will cooperate and how far Turkey will really want to push this issue. It is only if Turkey fails that others will take up the torch.
There are a host of legal measures that could be used bring the perpetrators to justice. Mohammed bin Salman may be untouchable inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and practically speaking any punishment meted out to him will come from within Saudi Arabia. However, international mechanisms can also be brought to bear upon the Saudi government.
Human rights groups have already called upon the United Nations to intercede and conduct a fair and transparent investigation. There are already a number of UN instruments, such as the Working Group on Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur for non-judicial executions, who might launch investigations and reports.