September 29, 2023 (Washington D.C.): On the fifth anniversary of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, civil society and governments around the world should recommit to seeking accountability for the killing and securing an end to persistent extraterritorial repression, said Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), the policy group founded by Khashoggi.

Failure to hold Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) and other Saudi agents involved in the murder will fuel impunity and copycat attacks to the detriment of people worldwide.

“Five years after this heinous crime, we persist in demanding justice and accountability from the Saudi government and are moved by the global efforts to commemorate Khashoggi’s life and legacy,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN’s Executive Director. “If the Saudi government spent a fraction of the billions it is spending to sanitize its disastrous human rights record on real reforms and accountability, everyone – from Saudi citizens to people around the world – would be better off.”

While governments around the world initially responded to Khashoggi’s murder with sanctions against the Saudi government and many of the individual culprits involved in the murder, they have largely returned to business as usual. The Biden administration has expanded arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest purchaser of U.S. weapons, and is now offering the regime an unprecedented security guarantee in return for normalization with Israel. France’s President Macron has hosted MBS with two state visits, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has invited MBS to London. However, some in the U.S. government have maintained their commitment to accountability. Importantly, Reps Schiff, Connolly, and McCollum will reintroduce the Khashoggi Act, which would codify the Khashoggi Ban and amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to allow for civil suits against foreign governments involved in acts of transnational repression, such as the murder of Khashoggi.  

The Saudi government claims that it has prosecuted low-level individuals implicated in Khashoggi’s murder and made unspecified “reforms”, but has never sought accountability against MBS, whom US intelligence officials concluded ordered the murder, or his two top henchmen, Saud Al-Qahtani and General Ahmed al-Asiri. The Saudi government has also refused to disclose where they have hidden Khashoggi’s remains, with a high-level Saudi official recently claiming that he “didn’t know” what the murderers did with Khashoggi’s body.

“It is shameful, but also painful, that the Saudi government hasn’t had the dignity to collect Khashoggi’s remains and allow his friends and family to give him a proper burial,” said Raed Jarrar, DAWN’s Advocacy Director. “Whatever political gains MBS and the Saudi regime think killing Khashoggi was worth, they should at least have a shred of ethics to allow him a real funeral.”

Civil society and local governments, however, have continued in their efforts to commemorate Khashoggi’s legacy. On October 2, 2023, following a campaign by DAWN, Los Angeles will rename the street in front of the Saudi Consulate “Jamal Khashoggi Square” in a public ceremony to be attended by LA City officials, Congressman Brad Sherman, and civil society organization representatives. 

On October 4, 2023, DAWN will host a commemoration dinner for Khashoggi at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., with support from media and civil society sponsors, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Tawakkol Karman Foundation, the Arab Center Washington, the National Interest Foundation, the law firm of Grossman Young & Hammond, LLC, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Emgage Action, the Center for Egyptian-American Dialogue, and the law firm of Sethi-Mazaheri LLC.. In attendance will be over 150 leading journalists, writers, and activists, including special honorees  Ayman Mohyeldin of MSNBC and Egyptian journalist Solafa Magdy, who will receive DAWN’s inaugural Integrity Award.

Additional commemoration events are referenced below.

In the absence of serious international action to punish Saudi Arabia for its attack on a U.S. resident journalist, extraterritorial attacks by Saudi Arabia and other governments around the world have proliferated. DAWN has documented numerous, ongoing attacks against U.S. citizens by the Saudi government, as well as attacks against activists and perceived political opponents in the U.K.NorwayCanadaFrance, and other countries. Most recently, the Canadian government announced that the Indian government had orchestrated the murder of one of its citizens, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh activist. 

“We need to connect the dots and understand that failing to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the extraterritorial murder of Khashoggi encourages other governments to believe that they too can get away with it, which is exactly what India’s reported murder of a Canadian citizen this year demonstrates,” said Whitson. “If democratic governments fail to protect journalists and activists living in their own countries from foreign attacks, our own press and societies will be the victims, and our own democracies will lose.”

DAWN urges the Biden administration to end its policy of capitulation and concession to the Saudi Arabian government, including continued arms sales, assistance with uranium enrichment, and a security guarantee that will threaten the lives of American soldiers.

Commemoration Events on the Fifth Anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder

  1. Unveiling of Jamal Khashoggi Square in Los Angeles: DAWN and the Los Angeles City Council will unveil “Jamal Khashoggi Square” in Los Angeles on October 2, at 3:00 PM PST at the square across from the Saudi Consulate. Among those delivering remarks at the ceremony will be Congressman Sherman, Councilwoman Park, Human Rights Watch, UCLA Law Promise Institute for Human Rights, Sarah Leah Whitson, and Raed Jarrar of DAWN.

  2. Virtual Discussion: Together with the Freedom Initiative, the Project on Middle East and Democracy, Human Rights Watch, and others, DAWN is co-sponsoring a virtual discussion on October 2 from 1:00-2:00 PM ET to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the murder. 

  3. DAWN Commemoration Dinner: On October 4 at 6:00 pm, DAWN is organizing a dinner at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to commemorate Khashoggi’s legacy, featuring keynote speeches by Nobel Prize Laureate and DAWN Board Member Tawakkol Karman, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Writer Lawrence Wright, and Pulitzer Prize Winning Writer Kai Bird. The event will also include the presentation of the inaugural DAWN Integrity Award to Ayman Mohyeldin of MSNBC and journalist Solafa Magdy,.

  4. Georgetown conference: “Critical Perspectives on U.S. Concessions for the Abraham Accords: Saudi Arabia-Israel-United States”: On October 5, from noon to 1:30 PM EDT, Georgetown University will host an in-person live-stream conference, co-organized by the Center for International Policy, DAWN, and the Forum on the Arms Trade, The event will scrutinize the Biden administration’s efforts to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, which could include significant U.S. concessions such as arms transfers and defense commitments. 



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