The assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, poses grave challenges for Donald Trump and U.S. foreign policy.
We haven’t heard much from Trump or his administration about International Law. But in the Khashoggi case, its relevance and importance cannot be ignored.
What is International Law? Why do we have it?
In the present case, the most fundamental human right, the right to life, of a Saudi citizen has been taken by the Saudi government without a hint of due process and the rule of law.
International human rights are based on treaties and customary international law and, as such, form an integral part of international law.
The right to life of Jamal Khashoggi has been violated, according to the CIA, at the command of the crown prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.
Does this matter?
Does this matter to the U.S. president, who instead of denoucing the atrocity appears to be doing all he can to help Saudi Arabia cover up the truth, particularly the truth that the crown prince ordered the assassination?
To join the Saudi coverup makes the U.S. president an accomplice to the coverup.
More importantly, it makes the U.S. sound like the international law provisions which prohibit a country from coming into another country and killing one of its citizens are not relevant to the Khashoggi case.
Should we care?
If a country can send its agents into another country to kill one of its citizens, given the provisions of international law, and there is no strong reaction when this occurs, then international law itself becomes irrelevant. The international law right is the right to life of the individual human being, not just a Saudi citizen.
So, if international law is irrelevant, then there is no reason a state cannot send its agents into the territory of a foreign state to assassinate any individual. One can imagine that a number of authoritarian states would welcome such a state of affairs, finding it much easier to deal with their critics, who they may view of “enemies of the state”.
Is there a problem here?
If states may send their agents into another state to kill anyone without strong reaction from other states, i.e., when international law becomes irrelevant, why can’t they send large numbers of their agents–even armies–into the territory of another state to put down their critics or those who oppose their policies?
Mr. Trump should think about and seek advice on these questions before he weighs in to join the Saudi coverup of the Khashoggi assassination and of the identities of those responsible for ordering it.
Trump’s joining the Saudi coverup of the Khashoggi assassination is a logical consequence of his jettisoning of the human rights pillar of U. S. foreign policy.
The logic extends directly from Trump’s praise of Rodrigo Duterte’s program of extrajudicial execution of drug dealers in the Phillippines to joining the coverup of the Khashoggi assassination by the Saudis.
What difference does one human life make?
That is a question every American voter should ask, and answer, before the 2020 elections.