November 26 11:34 2018

By Vova Chikanda

As I put my pen on this piece of paper, I realise that the message I want to give about the story of Jamal Khashoggi is not worthy the piece of paper on which I am writing. I am writing about a story that should have never happened in a civilised world. It is a heartbreaking and thought-provoking case, which raises more questions than answers in contemporary diplomatic and consular protection as defined by International Law. This unfortunate incident puts a dent on the question of state responsibility to its citizenry as promulgated in several UN conventions as well as in various juridical precedence pertaining to international citizenry and diplomatic protection.

The Khashoggi case raises fundamental questions on both the host and sending country subsequent responsibilities in terms of the two Vienna Conventions viz: Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

In the cited conventions, the provision of diplomatic and security protection of Diplomatic Agents and foreign citizens living in Turkey remains the privilege of the Turkish government. The protection of Saudi diplomats as well as Saudi Nationals in Turkey is an exclusive right and privilege of the Turkish government.

Diplomatic extraterritoriality enjoyed by the consulate and its officials affords the consulate ability to discharge its functions and to do whatever is necessary to protect and further national interest of the Saudi state as well as the protection of Saudi citizens unhindered by Turkish sovereignty. The Consulate is clothed with privileges and immunities to allow it to function efficiently.

When a person enters the embassy, the chancery or even the consulate of his/her country of origin, where you are a citizen with rights, you are expected to be given diplomatic and consular protection when you are inside or outside the diplomatic premises. Your Consulate is your protector.

What baffles the writer of this “Untold Murder of Jamal Khashoggi” is that all norms of international protection were undermined by the fact that Mr. Khashoggi received not diplomatic or consular protection but “diplomatic murder and slaughter”, terms which the writer is using for the very first time in International Diplomatic Law.

There seems to be a missing link somewhere in the Khashoggi case, one cannot doubt or question the integral role the host state (Turkey) and the sending state (Saudi Arabia) could have played in mitigating and stopping the murder. There is information that we do not have and there is no doubt the two states involved are privy to information that the world does not know.

Finger pointing and labelling are aspects of diplomatic facets and tools of statecraft diplomats use to wriggle out of scams or allegations. Indications that the Crown Prince could have dipped his finger in the murky and orchestrated murder, though it cannot be ruled out, should not be used to exonerate the two states from responsibility in the case.

Khashoggi visiting the consulate to complete a divorce process with his Saudi wife and seal a new chapter with his new Turkish fiancée- what an opportunity to cement diplomatic ties between the two countries! Could it be and is it possible that the chicken could eat its own eggs?

What we are witnessing in this case is an unparalleled case where not even injury, not even torture but slaughter of one’s own national within the diplomatic premises of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The callousness and wickedness of the gruesome act opened a bleeding wound that is difficult to heal and one can only dismiss the act of terror with a contempt it deserves.

Will there be justice in the Khashoggi case, when the very blue print of the International justice system is paying lip attention to the wanton murder of the journalist?

The US Government does not seem keen to punish its closest ally accounting for billions of dollars in arms deals and trade but in the murder of the Russian spy/journalist in UK the US imposed swift sanctions against the Russian Federation. Mr. Trump’s pronouncements on the murder seems to be protecting and not ready to openly condemn the Saudi government. He asserted that “US-Saudi relationship was more important than the possible involvement in the crime of Prince Mohammed”.

The British Government still nursing Brexit seems to be treating Saudi Arabia with kids gloves as well. Premier Theresa May condemned the killing and yet fell short of action and yet in the Russian case the UK slapped the Russian Federation with sanctions. She also seems to value more British interests in Saudi Arabia over the murder of the journalist.

While calling for a “credible investigation” the EU seems to have taken the laissez faire condemnation of what the writer sees as state sponsored terror and murder of Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government consulate officials. Germany has taken a commendable lead in not only condemning the murder but by introducing travel restrictions to Saudi nationals implicated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.


All having said and done, the Khashoggi murder has joined the long queue to justice.  We call upon the UN and the international community to continue to pressurize parties involved in particular the two States to redouble their efforts for disclosure, transparency and credible    investigations in order get the perpetrators of the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi to book.


Mr V A Chikanda is former diplomat and Principal Lecturer at the Zimbabwe Institute of Diplomacy

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