Outraged UN group says Khashoggi’s enforced disappearance violates international law
Growing outrage against the enforced disappearance and probable murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has increased pressure on the UN’s main human rights body to seek an impartial investigation.
By implication, a Saudi investigation as promised to President Donald Trump is not impartial or independent enough under international law.
Abductions, renditions and enforced disappearance of persons by governments are crimes and offenses to human dignity regardless of reasons and must be thoroughly investigated, a UN human rights working group said today citing Khashoggi’s case.
Bernard Duhaime, Chair of the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, said, “Whether it is used to repress political dissent, combat organized crime, or allegedly fight terrorism, when resorting to enforced disappearance States are actually perpetrating a crime and an offence to human dignity.”
“Now we are witnessing with outmost concern a new and very worrisome practice of the extraterritorial abductions of individuals in foreign countries through undercover operations,” he said in a statement.
“These abductions occur with or without the acquiescence of the host state, and while in most cases the victims reappear in detention after a short period, in other cases they remain disappeared – as in the recent shocking case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
So-called ‘short-term disappearances’, are being increasingly used in the context of anti-terrorism operations, often to “extract evidence and finalize the investigation outside the protection of the law and often resorting to coercion, if not torture”.
The working group, which reports to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), emphasized the obligation under international law to investigate enforced disappearances including renditions, coercion and torture.
These are early days, but an impartial UN-sponsored investigation is unlikely since Saudi Arabia is a favored ally of the Trump administration.
Trump is shunning the HRC and the US withdrew from it earlier this year, alleging persistent and long-standing bias against Israel.
Many governments, civil society groups and human rights experts agree with this allegation but support the HRC for lack of a better alternative, especially in light of the work it does against torture, enforced disappearances and numerous other human rights violations.
The HRC’s chief flaw is that many of its 47 members include regular human rights violators, like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Egypt. But without it, human rights victims would be abandoned without any independent due process at all.
A major HRC virtue is that it hears directly from persons who have been tortured or denied their human dignity by governments trying to silence them.
The new and worrying element causing outrage as in the Khashoggi case is the covert abduction of a dissident on foreign soil by intelligence operatives working extraterritorially without lawful disclosure to the foreign country where they have no jurisdiction.
Worse, the abduction is followed by enforced disappearance, torture, coercion and probably murder.