October 02, 2019
Words count; or at least they should. In the year since journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, there have been many calls for those responsible to be brought to justice, but little action.  
Justice For Jamal Khashoggi Is A Test For Everyone, Not Just Saudi Arabia
Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia in 2017 for self-imposed exile in the US. Through his column in the Washington Post, he was increasingly critical of the Saudi Government and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. A few weeks after his murder, it was reported that bin Salman had ordered Khashoggi’s execution, according to CIA intelligence.  
Over the last year, states at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, led by Iceland and Australia, have twice called on Saudi Arabia to ensure justice for Khashoggi through an independent investigation. The calling out of the powerful Gulf state is unprecedented, and should form the basis of stronger UN action on human rights in Saudi Arabia. States who claim to support freedom of the press must move from statements of support to action. Words by themselves are not enough.However, as Khashoggi’s fiance Hatice Cengiz has pointed out, despite these statements of support, there has been “no concrete action” to ensure justice. The international community must support a credible, independent, and open criminal investigation that holds individual perpetrators and those who masterminded the murder to account. This investigation could have been initiated by the UN Secretary General one year ago, and it is still not too late for him to act. The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, who has undertaken the most in-depth investigation into Khashoggi’s case to date, called for a criminal investigation. In herreport, Callamard concludes that Khashoggi’s killing “was overseen, planned and endorsed by high-level officials”. If the UN does not act, other states can. As the UN Special Rapporteur made clear, the murder  “constitutes an international crime over which other states should claim universal jurisdiction”.
Callamard also recommended the establishment of a new standing UN mechanism for the investigation of crimes against journalists. This body, if established, would fill a critical gap in the international protection architecture and address the global problem of endemic impunity for those who commit crimes against journalists. This mechanism could be activated in response to any killing of a journalist, to ensure that evidence is collected early and preserved, either with a view to pursuing justice internationally or to support proceedings at the national level. The very existence of a mechanism also has the potential to act as a deterrent against future attacks, causing those who would order the killing of a journalist to think twice. 
The creation of such a mechanism is long overdue. The killing of Khashoggi was by no means a one off: in the last 10 years, almost one thousand journalists have been killed worldwide. Nine out of 10 of these cases go unpunished. There was an international outcry following Khashoggi’s killing, but many murders of journalists are barely reported. ARTICLE 19’s Expression Agenda report, which tracks global freedom of expression, last year showed that media freedom was in serious decline and that journalists faced a range of threats from legal threats and imprisonment to physical attacks and murder. Whether these attacks are carried out by governments, organised criminals or powerful businesses, the intention is the same, to silence those journalists and create a climate of fear for others who would speak out.  
States who claim to support freedom of the press must move from statements of support to action. Words by themselves are not enough. It would be a fitting tribute to Khashoggi if out of this brutal crime, there is an opportunity to end impunity for those who order and carry out such acts.  It is not too late to secure justice for Khashoggi and in doing so help protect the Khashoggis of the future. 
Silvia Chocarro is Head of Protection at the freedom of expression organisation ARTICLE 19Related... Trump Defends Saudi Arabia Partnership Despite Journalist Killing: I'm Not 'A Fool' J.K Rowling Among 100 Writers And Activists Calling For UN Investigation Into Khashoggi Death Nicki Minaj Drops Saudi Arabia Show Amid Outcry From Human Rights Activists
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