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Condemning Khashoggi’s Killers

Despite global media coverage and condemnation by governments and human-rights activists, Saudi officials’ murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has not led to any meaningful sanctions. And such impunity is an important reason why the murder happened in the first place.

AMSTERDAM – The details of the brutal, premeditated murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are astonishing. For starters, there is the location: not some dark alley but inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul. Next, there are the alleged perpetrators: a 15-member team that included a forensic doctor who once worked in Australia and brought a bone saw, and a body double who put on Khashoggi’s clothes – probably while they were still warm – and casually slipped out the back door.

But the most shocking revelation may be this: the Saudis knew they could get away with murder.

Recent figures published by UNESCO, the United Nations organization that is tasked, in part, with promoting the safety of journalists worldwide, show that in nine of ten cases, perpetrators are never punished for murdering a journalist. Because impunity is the norm, Saudi authorities took the gamble that even if the killing came to light, the consequences would be minor. And they were right: although prosecutors in Saudi Arabia are seeking the death penalty for five of the suspects, the international response has so far been meek.