In 2018, Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up the documents he needed for his wedding. He never came out.
Inside the consulate, a team was waiting to kill him with the necessary tools to ensure his body was never found again. It was an attempt to simply make a reviewer disappear and be forgotten. This strategy seems to have worked for more than two years, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also known as MBS), widely credited with being responsible for the murder, has escaped any significant form of responsibility.
But this week, we saw a silver lining that the crown prince will ultimately be held accountable. The Biden administration released an unclassified intelligence report into Khashoggi’s murder, offering official confirmation that the prince was involved in the murder. For more than two years, the Trump administration has thwarted the Open Society Justice Initiative’s efforts in court to secure the release of documents that would disclose such information, including this very report.
The release of the report is a step towards establishing accountability and preventing the crown prince from literally getting away with the murder. But these revelations must be followed by decisive action. For too long the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have condemned the murder of Khashoggi while in fact turning a blind eye.
With more and more evidence available, there must now be consequences for such a serious crime. On February 26, the State Department issued sanctions against 76 people, but not against MBS. But it’s not enough. It is unacceptable that the US government will allow the chief murderer – the crown prince – to free himself from punishment. By imposing only financial and travel sanctions on lower-ranking officials, it sends a clear message that MBS and authoritarian leaders around the world can literally get away with murders and continue to persecute dissidents with impunity.
This is why Open Society calls on the US, UK and other governments and others around the world to end arms exports to Saudi Arabia and impose financial and travel sanctions. to MBS and everyone else responsible for the murder. Failure to follow up on these actions would be unacceptable.
Ending all arms exports to Saudi Arabia would send a clear message that human rights abuses will no longer be ignored in the interest of multibillion-dollar arms deals. This reality was something former President Donald Trump was happy to brag about.
Last month, the Biden administration temporarily suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but it must go further and ensure the ban lasts as long as Saudi Arabia continues to engage in a pattern. constant gross violations of human rights. The United States, along with the United Kingdom and France, are among the top arms exporters to Saudi Arabia.
Ending arms exports would not only send a strong message about Khashoggi’s murder, but also end Western complicity in another area where Saudi Arabia flaunts human rights and international humanitarian law: the bombing of civilians in neighboring Yemen.
In addition, there should be targeted financial and travel sanctions that make the consequences personal and not just abstract. MBS and his henchmen are expected to face asset freezes and travel bans similar to those imposed by the United States on Russian officials.
There is no reason the Crown Prince should be allowed to visit his $ 300 million French castle while the crime he led goes unpunished. Those who have carried out his orders and have not yet been sanctioned should also feel the pressure and know that there is no business as usual for them.
Releasing more official government information on Khashoggi’s murder would help ensure that he is not forgotten and guard against the recurrence of such crimes. The report released this week is not the only file the Trump administration has denied us in our litigation.
A CIA report widely cited in the media, but not officially published, concluded with “medium to high confidence” that MBS had ordered the murder of Khashoggi. In court, the Trump administration even refused to admit it had the report. The recent court ruling, however, requires the US government to identify the report and explain the legal basis for withholding it to the public.
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, called on President Joe Biden to break with the past and release the report.
Making new documents publicly available and taking decisive action against the Saudi government and the crown prince has laid the groundwork for new accountability measures. Official confirmation is vital to establishing public and legal accountability, and taking action shows that accountability will go beyond vague statements of “concern”.
While the latest documents may continue to flow out of the United States, no action will be effective without the support of the international community. It is up to governments committed to freedom of expression and democratic values to ensure that the path to accountability is realized.
Now that the official findings of the report are obvious to all, failing to take decisive action against MBS and Saudi Arabia would be immoral. This would deprive Khashoggi and his family of their right to justice. And that would pave the way for Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian governments to continue to murder and persecute dissidents with impunity.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.