The UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, has called of an independent inquiry into the suspected ‘enforced disappearance’ on October 2 of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
The UN rights office said the “apparent enforced disappearance” of Khashoggi, who was last seen reportedly visiting Saudi’s Consulate in Istanbul last week, required a full investigation involving both Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
“This apparent enforced disappearance of Mr Khashoggi from the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul is of serious concern.
“If reports of his death and the extraordinary circumstances leading up to it are confirmed, this is truly shocking,” OHCHR Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva.
OHCHR spokesperson underlined the need for an independent inquiry, noting that the development followed “several cases” in Saudi Arabia recently where human rights defenders and journalists have been detained.
“We call for cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia to conduct a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into the circumstances into Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and to make the findings public,” Ms Shamdasani said.
The OHCHR’s spokesperson said given the lack of clarity surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance, her office would wait before issuing further statements.
“At the moment there are still a lot of questions about precisely what happened when Mr Khashoggi entered the consulate. So we will wait until matters are clearer before we can comment further.”
According to news reports, Khashoggi went to the Saudi Arabia’s consulate last week to obtain a divorce document that would allow him to remarry his Turkish fiancée.
The fiancée reportedly went with him, but had to wait outside, and Khashoggi failed to return.
She told journalists that he had been required to surrender his mobile phone to consulate staff, and Khashoggi had advised her to call an adviser to the Turkish President, if he failed to emerge.
The OHCHR comments were also echoed by Senior UN rights experts, Bernard Duhaime, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard.
The UN rights experts spoke of their concern at Khashoggi’s disappearance “and at allegations of state-sponsored murder” of the journalist and government critic.
They said: “We are concerned that the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi is directly linked to his criticism of Saudi policies in recent years.
“We reiterate our repeated calls on the Saudi authorities to open the space for the exercise of fundamental rights,” they added, “including the right to life and of expression and dissent”.