By J Nastranis
NEW YORK (IDN) – While UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement released on October 19, said that he is “deeply troubled” by the reported confirmation of the death of Jamal Khashoggi, independent UN human rights experts have commended business leaders who have decided to pull out of a high-level investment conference – also known as ‘Davos in the Desert’ – taking place October 23-25 in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
A tweet posted by the Saudi Foreign Ministry on October 19 stated that the missing Saudi journalist, a columnist with the Washington Post newspaper, was killed, claims reportedly echoed on Saudi State TV.
The tweet says that “discussions that took place with the citizen Jamal Khashoggi during his presence in the Consulate of the Kingdom in Istanbul…did not go as required and escalated negatively which led to a fight…which aggregated the situation and led to his death.”
The Secretary-General extended his condolences to Khashoggi’s family and friends and stressed the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of the journalist’s death and full accountability for those responsible.
Guterres’s comments are the latest in a chorus of concern and condemnation over Khashoggi’s disappearance from UN officials and independent UN human rights experts.
Over the last few days, statements regarding the Khashoggi disappearance have been released by the offices of UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, the Chair of the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, Bernard Duhaime, and the Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Dante Pesce.
In a statement issued on October 19 by the UN human rights office (OHCHR), Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Dante Pesce, said the decision by corporations and top executives to withdraw “underlines how companies can use their leverage to address human rights concerns.”
Around 30 delegates and firms are said to have withdrawn from ‘Davos in the Desert’. These include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the HSBC banking group, Credit Suisse (CS) and Standard Chartered (SCBFF), the London Stock Exchange (LNSTY), and ride-share giant Uber.
The U.S. Treasury Secretary, and UK International Trade Secretary, have also said they will not be going, though many business sponsors and other companies are still scheduled to attend.
“Business leaders need to take a strong interest in keeping civic space open wherever they operate,” said Pesce. “It is only in an environment where journalists and human rights defenders are able to speak freely that businesses can effectively identify and prevent negative human rights impacts.”
Khashoggi was last seen on October 2, entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and there is no evidence that he ever left the building.
UN Secretary-General Guterres’ Spokesperson told reporters on October 18 that the Saudi and Turkish joint investigation needed to play out, before any UN-led international investigation could take place, “if all the parties involved request it, or if there’s a legislative mandate from a UN body.”
The Working Group on Business and Human Rights presented a report to the UN General Assembly earlier in the week, which highlighted practical steps businesses need to take to avoid eroding human rights. These principles are echoed in the 2018 United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
United Nations human rights chief Michele Bachelet said on October 17 that she was open to an independent, UN-led investigation into the fate of the Saudi journalist Khashoggi, if joint efforts by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, fail to uncover the facts.
The High Commissioner who heads OHCHR, reiterated her call earlier in the week, for diplomatic immunity to be waived to ensure the joint investigation is effective, impartial and transparent.
Khashoggi, an influential Saudi journalist and critic, who has been living in exile in the United States in recent months and writing a column for the Washington Post newspaper, had gone to the Saudi Consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul, on October 2, to obtain marriage papers. He was never seen leaving, and the Saudi authorities have denied all knowledge of his whereabouts.
In an exclusive interview on October 17 with the UN News Spanish service at UN Headquarters in New York, Bachelet said that Khashoggi’s “family and the world, deserves to know the truth” of what happened to him.
The rights chief said the UN had firstly urged both countries – Turkey and Saudi Arabia – to conduct a joint investigation, which is on-going, “but we have mentioned that this investigation should be thorough, should be transparent, should be a very serious investigation,” she said, to determine whether, and how he may have died or genuinely disappeared.
She said it was essential that the perpetrators be brought to justice. Urging the full lifting of diplomatic immunity for the truth to be established, she said that the joint investigation, had to succeed in uncovering the facts.
“If it doesn’t work we might need another kind of investigation, but for now, we hope that it’s already been done, some of this, even though it’s 12 days later. His family and the world, deserves to know the truth,” said the High Commissioner.
The case of Saudi dissident journalist Khashoggi is just the latest example of a “new and very worrying practice” of States abducting individuals beyond their own borders, said the Chair of the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, addressing the UN General Assembly on October 18.
In its annual report, presented to the UN Human Rights Council at the end of September, the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances highlighted the practice which Chair, Bernard Duhaime, said “occurs 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.”
Duhaime reiterated a statement released on October 9, which called for an independent international investigation into what happened, and the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators
He added that the Working Group had previously expressed its concerns over ‘short-term disappearances’, increasingly used in recent years especially in the context of anti-terrorism operations. Duhaime said it was often done “to extract evidence and finalise the investigation outside the protection of the law and often resorting to coercion, if not torture”.
This year’s report expresses serious concern that the number of enforced disappearances continues to be unacceptably high worldwide, with 820 new cases reported between May 2017 and May 2018, and called for more assistance to be made available to family members and members of civil society to enable them to report cases to the Working Group and, more importantly, to keep working on enforced disappearance issues.
“Whether it is used to repress political dissent, combat organised crime, or allegedly fight terrorism, when resorting to enforced disappearance, States are actually perpetrating a crime and an offence to human dignity,” Duhaime told the UN General Assembly, urging all Member States to ratify, without delay, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The Working Group was set up in 1980, to help families find out what happened to their relatives. It serves as a channel of communication between family members of victims of enforced disappearance and other sources reporting cases of disappearances, and the Governments concerned. [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 October 2018]
Photo: Saudi writer and media personality Jamal Khashoggi [Beforeitsnews.com/Facebook]
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