The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was carried out behind the closed doors of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
Had it not been for a gruesome recording obtained by the Turkish intelligence agency, the truth about the killing of this critic of the Saudi royal family might never have come to light.
Now it has been revealed that the Saudi authorities have been holding court hearings involving the 11 people they have charged in relation to the murder, including five who face the death penalty, without any public scrutiny.
This belated news prompted the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, Anges Callamard, to criticise the “insufficient public attention placed on the proceedings”.
“Given the importance of the case, we should be expecting a greater presence of representatives of the media, of civil society, of a range of other governments, not just those hand-picked by the Saudi authorities,” she said.
The suspicion is that the killing of Khashoggi – whose body has still not been found – was ordered by the Saudi state, possibly even by the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, himself. The New York Times, citing intelligence sources, reported this week that bin Salman had told an aide in 2017 he would use “a bullet” on Khashoggi if the journalist did not stop criticising his government.
For anyone who believes in the rule of law, the response to this murder is one of the most important issues in the world today. For, as Callamard pointed out, it is just part of a “well-documented pattern of killings globally of journalists, human rights defenders, activists and opponents of various governments” and “the tentacles of covert intelligence services are spreading across the world, reminiscent of the Cold War era”.
The Russian government’s apparent attempt to kill former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury – which resulted in the death of local woman Dawn Sturgess – is perhaps another example.
So, as the Saudis attempt to hide the truth, it is beholden on all those who seek to defend democracy, human rights and freedom in the world to try to cast as much light as possible.
Because, as Callamard stressed, “the fate of those who dare to criticise their government’s policies and practices hangs in the balance”.