There is considerable speculation in the Western world as to whether Saudi Arabia will eventually release the convicted killers of the Washington Post journalist and a consistent critic of royalty, Jamal Khashoggi.
The killers were said to have been forgiven by Khashoggi’s sons in a move that is said to signify the kingdom’s “absolute impunity”. In tangible terms, therefore, the palace in Riyadh will very probably get away with murder. This will ensure a smooth transition for the next in line to the throne, Crown Prince Salman.
It bears recall that in the aftermath of the hideous tragedy in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Salman’s ascendancy to the throne was under a cloud. That uncertainty over helming the world’s richest nation has lessened over the weekend. Agnès Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, had initially said that the 2018 murder was committed at the behest of the Saudi state.
It was a tweaked perception that she advanced last Friday, reaffirming that the message of forgiveness represented the “first steps towards their eventual release” under Saudi and sharia law.
“All of us who over the last 20 months have reported on the gruesome execution of Jamal Khashoggi and absence of accountability for his killing expected this,” she said.
“The Saudi authorities are playing out what they hope will be the final act in their well-rehearsed parody of justice in front of an international community far too ready to be deceived.”
The forgiveness was studiously calibrated ~ in the holy month of Ramzan and 72 hours before Monday’s Id-ul-Fitr. Khashoggi’s son Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, posted a statement on Twitter, saying members of his family had decided to forgive the killers.
“On this very blessed night of this very blessed month we remember God almighty’s saying in his holy book: ‘If you forgive and you make reconciliation, the reward is due from God,’” he said.
The immediate family has taken recourse to scriptures on a profound occasion to pardon the killers, and the brutal directives of Crown Prince Salman in the wider canvas.
Small wonder that the pardon has been greeted with stout condemnation by international rights activiists and pre-eminently Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, an outspoken advocate for justice ~ “The heinous murder does not have a statute of limitations and no one has the right to pardon his killers,” has been her robust reaction, in part constitutional and in part driven by personal grief.
Ms Callamard, the UN special rapporteur whose 2019 report on Khashoggi’s murder concluded that it was a state-sponsored killing, said his family had probably been put under pressure to issue the statement.
It undermined a series of steps Saudi Arabia had recently announced that appeared to show it was adopting basic human rights standards, such as dropping the death penalty for minors and ending the practice of flogging. The plot thickens with the pardon. Saudi Arabia’s shame ought to mount.