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“An unlawful death”: Dr. Agnès Callamard’s report on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi (Demo)

The report‘s cover page is on my screen, in black and white. Investigation into the unlawful death of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.

A modest title, for what is a truly groundbreaking piece of work. Submitted on 19 June to the United Nations by Dr. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, it makes for disturbing, compelling reading.

In it, Khashoggi’s brutal murder is described as premeditated. Overseen. Planned. Endorsed. Financed. Coordinated. The report aims high – well-above those who wielded the weapons in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where the journalist was killed in October 2018, and all the way up to the author of the crime.

In the rigour of its research, the breadth of its investigation, the unambiguity of its conclusions, and the directness of its accusations of State accountability at the highest level, it is an uncompromising demand for justice.

It makes no fewer than 41 recommendations, directed at UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN institutions and agencies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, UN member states, corporations, and civil society.

These recommendations need to be listened to, and acted upon. Will they be?

As I wrote last November to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Khashoggi’s murder and the ensuing cover-up were planned and carried out by people who believed that they were untouchable. Who still believe that they are untouchable.

Why wouldn’t they? Those guilty of such crimes are still rarely held to account.

We need to prove them wrong. And by we, I mean all of us. As Dr. Callamard told a room full of passionate free expression advocates and press freedom defenders from the global IFEX network, along with partners and allies, in April: Your voice matters.

“Don’t let anyone silence you. I suspect that if we had more international voices maybe a year ago when Saudi Arabia started doing what it did, maybe Mr. Khashoggi would still be alive. I have no proof of it, but I just want to leave us with this thought. Your voice matters, standing up matters, and we cannot let people silence us in the face of such injustice.”

If ever there was a time to remind ourselves of the power we hold within ourselves, that time is now. Threats to press freedom are multiplying across the world. This year alone, 24 journalists have been killed according to UNESCO. And there are all too many cases where justice remains elusive: the murders of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Cambodian activist and broadcaster Kem Ley, Bahraini photojournalist Ahmed Ismail Hassan, Pakistani reporter Shan Dahar, and many others.

Civil society groups campaign tirelessly on these and so many other cases. Their efforts keep hope alive, support the victim’s families, and in some cases – even when the odds are stacked high against them – they bring those responsible to account.

Which brings us back to Jamal Khashoggi. Despite the odds, despite the power of those accused, the denials of Saudi Arabia, the lukewarm reactions from some other powerful states, and President Trump’s stated willingness to tolerate such gross violations of human rights in exchange for trade deals, we are compelled to continue to champion for justice.

The report presented by Dr. Callamard is already, in a very real sense, a victory for justice. In her comprehensive set of recommendations, she lays out a roadmap not just to deliver justice in this specific case, but to tackle the problem of impunity as a whole.

It’s now up to all of us to stand up and pressure our elected representatives, governments, and international institutions to demand accountability and act on this roadmap.

The successes we have seen in cases of impunity for crimes against journalists have something in common. The knowledge that, yes, it is a long game, and not for the faint-hearted. The belief that, yes, working together, we can help deliver justice, as hard and as daunting a challenge as that may be, and, yes, it is worth it.

And, finally, and perhaps most essentially, the firm belief that yes, our voices do matter.


Annie Game is the Executive Director of IFEX, a network of organisations connected by a shared commitment to promote and defend freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. You can find out more about the work of the IFEX network to end impunity at 

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