Erdogan said the Saudi officials arrived in Turkey the day before Khashoggi went
to the consulate October 2 to do some paperwork for his upcoming marriage. The
Washington Post columnist – a mild critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler,
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – was never seen again. The Saudi government,
after repeated denials, now admits that Khashoggi was killed inside the
consulate in what it terms a "rogue operation” or "botched interrogation".
However, Erdogan said various members of the Saudi team, including a military general, conducted some kind of survey of a forest near Istanbul and also disabled security cameras near the Saudi consulate before Khashoggi arrived. After his disappearance, the officials abruptly returned to Saudi Arabia. In his words, "Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a very cruel murder. We have all the evidence.”
Erdogan’s soft rhetoric on the issue notwithstanding, the question now is what next? This is important, because just like many experts and newspaper editorials, Erdogan, without pointedly mentioning Crown Prince Mohammed, said the order to kill Khashoggi must have come from high up within the Saudi government.
In that case, this is a great test for the world’s conscience to act, particularly for governments in the West which keep telling us they don’t hesitate to act when it comes to protect human rights and hold to account those who are in violation.
Lest we forget, when news broke this year that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia had come into contact with the deadly nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury, London and its allies acted so fast that they never waited for a Russian report. They all pointed the finger at Moscow, followed by the expulsion of Russian diplomatic corps from not just Britain but a host of other western states and imposition of sanctions.
But when reports emerged of another attack - Saudi Arabia’s abduction and murder of Khashoggi - the response was different. Words of condemnation were replaced with expressions of concern, and threats of reprisals swapped with calls for patience. Implicit in this response was concern for what would be at stake if the West were to confront the Wahhabi regime, with whom they share hundreds of billions of pounds in arms trade.
Still, evidence has mounted over Saudi Arabia’s official role in Khashoggi’s death, and the West has been forced to address it. Western companies and high-profile officials dropped out of the Saudis’ so-called "Davos in the Desert” investment conference.
Following Saudi Arabia’s statement that Khashoggi was killed in a "rogue operation,” much of the world community didn’t buy the claim. They called on the regime to provide "urgent” clarification about exactly what happened to Khashoggi.
Though human rights groups and United Nations also called for an independent probe, the world body has so far stopped short of detailing the potential international repercussions for the Saudi regime, with whom it had been at odds over the illegal war on Yemen, although its time-to-time condemnations have never been pursued by real action to punish Riyadh for its aggressive behavior and crimes either.
Irrespective of political considerations and Saudi money, the UN now knows fully well that the appalling stories are true, they are fundamentally incompatible with UN values, and it needs to act accordingly.
This is in no way an attempt for retaliation, rather to ensure that there are no double standards regarding human rights violations by any UN member state. Indeed, when some Western governments are giving the Saudi regime the benefit of the doubt because of arms sales, the UN’s failing to respond in a lawful manner that should include sanctions could be regarded as hypocrisy.
This is a test for the UN’s global leadership. The UN should defend and uphold the international rules-based order by holding Saudi Arabia to account. Otherwise, it would be exposed to criticism of hypocrisy and for not applying the same standards to Saudi Arabia.