The 513-article report by Agnes Callamard, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, which holds Saudi Arabia responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, was released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 19 June 2019. The report also states that Turkey failed to fulfil its responsibilities as regards the murder. This calls for a re-examination of the stance taken by the AKP government in relation to the Khashoggi killing.
Stating that “both the investigations conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey [into the killing] failed to meet international standards” (art. 5), the report calls upon Turkey to request United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to launch an international investigation into the Khashoggi killing and “fully collaborate with the process” (art. 488). Furthermore, the report recommends Turkey to share “information and evidence at its disposal” regarding the Khashoggi murder (art. 489).
The UN report finds that despite the contrary statements by AKP officials, from the moment of the murder, Turkey could have entered the consular building under the relevant articles of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCARD) (31/2, 41, 44), could have taken action as regards Consul General al-Otaibi, and could have searched the consular residence and vehicles (arts. 7, 11, 320, 321).
In addition to the AKP government not availing itself immediately of the options of entering the consular building and searching the consular vehicles protected under the relevant articles, it also turned a blind eye on the Saudi Arabian Consular General al-Outaibi’s return to his country, did not search the consular residence although it did not enjoy immunity, and waited for the limited permission that would be provided by Saudi Arabia two weeks after the killing.
The AKP government simply looked on as Saudi officials cleaned up the scene of crime (art. 283) during this time. In summary, Turkey did not conduct a due crime scene investigation in a timely manner into the Khashoggi killing by exercising the rights enshrined in international law, did not detain Saudi consul general al-Otaibi, let alone question him as a witness, looked on as persons in connection to the incidence left the country (art. 44), and simply stood by as Saudi Arabia abused and even violated the VCARD.
The report states that Turkish intelligence reported that on 27 September 2018 (six days before the murder) a team from Saudi Arabia “swept the Saudi Consulate for bugs and other surveillance equipment” (art. 76). This indicates that the AKP government did not take the necessary measures against these actions of Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, it is remarkable that the UN rapporteur states that her review of audio recordings was limited as the Turkish authorities did not provide the opportunity for a detailed review of audio recordings by the UN delegation (art. 41).
However, there are two issues mentioned in the report that are more striking than these criticisms. Firstly, the UN rapporteur says that “the Turkish investigation took place not only under the shadow of Saudi Arabia control over the crime scenes but also under the shadow of […] President Erdoğan, whose public statements on the killing […] impacted the independence of the investigation” (art. 299). Secondly, the report states that Turkey feared retaliation by Saudi Arabia (art. 325).
Addressing the issue of legal accountability for the Khashoggi killing, the report calls on Turkey to drop the charges against all persons targeted for expression of their opinions, primarily journalists and academics (art. 491), arguing that accountability is weak in Turkey as evidenced by Turkey’s imprisonment of journalists (art. 22).
CHP submitted a report to the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) Security and Intelligence Committee regarding the Khashoggi murder and tabled a motion at the TGNA to set up an investigation committee to shed light on the event. Had the government, which disregarded our report and rejected our motion, paid heed to us, we would not be reading today the statements in the UN report that put Turkey in a difficult position.
The UN report into the killing of Mr Khashoggi is important in terms of law, human rights, and freedoms of the press and expression. We call up all states professing their faith in these values to contribute to the solution of the Khashoggi murder, which now has gained an international dimension. Failing to fulfil its responsibilities on this issue up until now, the AKP government must now start taking the necessary steps by first officially requesting the United Nations Secretary General to investigate the event. Now that Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu also announced he supported the recommendations within the report, we reiterate, in the strongest possible terms, our expectation that Turkey takes action as regards the Khashoggi killing as recommended by the UN report. This is a duty falling on the AKP government not only for our national interests but also the interests of the entire humanity.