Photo credit: April Brady/Project on Middle East Democracy
Article by Fabian Unser-Nad
The case of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had gone missing on 2 October 2018, after he visited the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul to obtain marriage papers, is just the latest example of a “new and very worrying” practice of States abducting individuals beyond their own borders, namely enforced or involuntarily disappearance. Under the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, an enforced disappearance occurs when a “persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.” Enforced or involuntarily disappearance is a particularly heinous violation of human rights. Victims are people who have literally disappeared from their loved ones or their community. Often, they are never released, and their fate remains unknown.
Furthermore, their family and friends experience distress, not knowing whether the victim is still alive, and if so, where s/he is being held, under what conditions, and in what state of health. In the case of Mr. Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia admitted on 19 October 2018 after two weeks of denial, that dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight. However, his family and the world deserve to know the truth. Under human rights law, States have the duty to provide an effective remedy, and investigation and prosecution should rest on an effective and independent judiciary. Saudi Arabia has a duty and obligation to ensure effective remedy without undue delay and a prompt and impartial investigation into the enforced disappearance and killing of Mr. Khashoggi, hold the perpetrators accountable and end impunity.