Brussels, Belgium – Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi‘s fiancee has urged the European Union (EU) to “transcend economic interests” and exert pressure on Saudi Arabia to ensure justice in the sensational killing.
“Up until now, nothing has been done to those implicated in this crime,” Hatice Cengiz said in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday.
“Hasn’t the moment come? I ask this question as a simple human being.”
Cengiz was speaking as one of the victims of human rights abuses in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, who were invited by the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights to give evidence.
“I’m here not only as the fiancee of Jamal, but also for the values he fought for, values he wanted for the people in his own country, the people of the Arab world,” Cengiz said.
Khashoggi, a US resident and columnist at the Washington Post, was a well-known critic of the Saudi regime. He went missing last year on October 2 after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick divorce papers he needed to marry Cengiz.
Following international pressure and media attention, Riyadh admitted Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate by a Saudi squad and his body dismembered.
‘System turned against him’
Eleven suspects have been indicted for Khashoggi’s murder in Saudi Arabia, which has insisted it will handle the case and refused their extradition to Turkey.
The United Nation‘s special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, who leads an inquiry into the death, called it “a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the state of Saudi Arabia”.
The international investigation started in late January and an official report is due in June.
“The system turned against him,” said the 37-year-old Cengiz.
She argued that if a prominent personality such as Khashoggi could be targeted the way he was, then “anybody could fall victim of this system”.
“These problems that exist within the Gulf are not exclusive to the region,” she added, echoing calls from other speakers for the EU to not turn a blind eye as the ramifications of Gulf problems go “beyond borders”.
“The facts revealed so far do no[t] satisfy the European Parliament and the human rights commission,” said Pier Antonio Panzeri, chair of the subcommittee, during a press conference after the meeting.
“We cannot allow Saudi Arabia and its leadership to get away with too little,” Panzeri added.
The EU has been more vocal than its member states and the US in its criticism of Riyadh.
Last week, the European Commission confirmed it would blacklist Saudi Arabia as a high-risk jurisdiction for money laundering and terrorism financing in what is seen as a turning point in the bloc’s relations with the kingdom.
The United States has been accused of helping in the cover-up of Khashoggi’s murder after President Donald Trump’s administration failed to report back to Congress on the issue.
US Senators have asked the Trump administration to probe the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s death.
Saudi Arabia was the world’s number one arms importer in 2017 and the main buyer of US arms between 2013 and 2017. Nearly a quarter of Saudi Arabia’s weapon imports come from the EU, with four EU countries among the top 10 exporters.
EU’s double standards?
The other high-profile speaker to give evidence before the European Parliament’s subcommittee was Matthew Hedges, a British researcher who was arrested in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on spying allegations.
Hedges was allowed to return home last November after receiving a pardon from a life sentence.
“There was much talk of following a legal process, but my trial was a farce,” Hedges said.
“My detention was a nightmare during which my civil and human rights were violated. All the while, my own government and many EU states continued friendly and blossoming relationship with the UAE.”
Hedges called on the EU and its member states to “acknowledge the UAE is a hostile environment for academics”.
Others speakers included former member of Bahrain’s parliament Ali Alaswad, and Wafaa Al Yazidi, a single Qatari mother of three, who is looking to reunite with her family after the Bahraini government asked her children to leave Qatar as a result of the political crisis in the Gulf.
Some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) questioned the collection of testimonies and said such moves were still rooted in double standards.
“There should be coherence on the part of the EU,” Panzeri told Al Jazeera. “[It] can’t on the one hand ask that human rights be respected, and on the other provide weapons for the conflict in Yemen.”