Opposition parties in the United Kingdom, including Labour party, wrote to the U.K. foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt over the case of Jamal Khashoggi asking, “what crime the Saudi government would need to commit” for the U.K. government to condemn it.
Reported by The Guardian, Sunday, which had been shown the letter, the foreign affairs representatives for Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, and the Greens wrote to the foreign secretary highlighting their concerns and demanding that the U.K. changes its policy on Saudi Arabia.
Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist from Saudi Arabia- who went to a self-imposed exile to the U.S. after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on dissent- was a Washington Post Columnist. He went missing after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The Turkey government was confident that Saudi officials killed him while Riyadh denied the allegations for almost two weeks before admitting to killing him.
The Turkish news outlet Yeni Safak published excerpts of Khashoggi’s gruesome interrogation recording in the Saudi consulate Wednesday which revealed that he was killed inside the building and his body was severed.
On Friday, the Saudi government finally accepted his death but said that he died during a fistfight. An hour later, another Saudi official attributed the death to a chokehold. The explanation was not accepted by other countries.
Britain’s Brexit minister Dominic Raab said Sunday that the explanation is not credible. “No, I don’t think it is credible ... We support the Turkish investigation into it and the British government will want to see people held to account for that death.”
The latest details on the murder were provided by a Saudi official to Reuters on the condition of anonymity. He described how the team of 15 Saudi nationals sent to confront Khashoggi on Oct. 2 had threatened him with being drugged and kidnapped and then killed him in a chokehold when he resisted. A member of the team then dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes to make it appear as if he had left the consulate.
U.S. President Donald Trump emphasized Saturday that he was not satisfied with the Saudis’ handling of the case, further raising questions over whether he would act to impose sanctions on Saudi officials believed to be behind Khashoggi’s death. But U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that it was premature to comment on possible sanctions against Suadi Arabia until an investigation could be completed.
However, the opposition in the U.K. took a different approach.
The letter by U.K. politicians, says that journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul constituted “the latest in a litany of charges that have been laid before the Saudi regime by the international community”.
Signed by Labour’s Emily Thornberry, Stephen Gethins of the SNP, Christine Jardine from the Lib Dems, Jonathan Edwards of Plaid Cymru and Caroline Lucas from the Greens, the letter cites war crimes by the kingdom in Yemen conflict, imprisonment of activists, repression of LGBT rights and frequent use of capital punishment to suppress dissent.
“It cannot be business as usual with a regime that displays blatant contempt and disregard for international law and human rights. The consistent inaction of your government is utterly incompatible with our most basic value as a democracy. We regard it as unacceptable that the UK government not only remains silent, but actively enables this Saudi regime.”
The U.K., the letter goes on, “has continued to supply Saudi Arabia with weaponry which has been used in the devastating war in Yemen, has shamefully rolled out the red carpet for the Saudi crown prince in a state visit earlier this year, and has repeatedly excused their actions in statements before the House of Commons”.
The letter calls for action instead of continuous rhetoric by the U.K. administration. It should fully condemn the “reckless and barbaric” behavior of the Saudi Arabia government, suspend arms sales for use in Yemen, investigate war crimes, halt military operations in the Gulf country, and support an independent inquiry into Khashoggi’s torture and murder.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow secretary of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, from Labour party, wrote an article on Oct. 13 for The Guardian which condemns the U.K. government’s silence over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. She wrote that if the same would have happened in Russia, Iran or Syria, it would not take the government even 24 hours to condemn and demand investigations. But the reaction is not the same for Saudi Arabia.
“This man has no respect for human rights, no respect for the rule of law and no respect for territorial boundaries, so is it any wonder so many commentators are convinced he had no hesitation in ordering the abduction and murder of Khashoggi?” wrote Thornberry while speaking about the crown prince.
“And yet this government apparently urges us to forget all of that because Bin Salman has committed himself to allowing women in Saudi Arabia to have the right to drive their own cars. And, more importantly, as far as it is concerned, he will give us a good trade deal after Brexit so we can continue exporting the arms he is using to prosecute his brutal war against the people of Yemen.”
She also said that the Labour party will not tolerate this and the same standards must be applied to every country which violates human rights.
“The next Labour government, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, will not make that compromise. It is time to end Britain’s blind spot on Saudi Arabia until Saudi Arabia is genuinely ready to change its ways,” concluded the writer.
Amid mounting international pressure, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Sunday the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was a "huge and grave mistake" and promised his family that those responsible will be punished.
"This is a terrible mistake. This is a terrible tragedy. Our condolences go out to them. We feel their pain," Jubeir said in an interview with Fox News. "Unfortunately, a huge and grave mistake was made and I assure them that those responsible will be held accountable for this."