NZ should condemn Saudi Arabia over Jamal Khashoggi death - expert

  • 21/10/2018

There are calls for the Government to formally condemn the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia now says the dissident journalist died during a fist-fight within the country's consulate in Istanbul.

While US President Donald Trump has described the Saudis' explanation as "credible", there is widespread scepticism it tells the whole story.

University of Otago international relations expert Dr Robert Patman says New Zealand should speak out.

"It needs to, I think, issue a joint statement with like-minded countries - Canada, and the liberal-minded democracies of Europe - that this is completely unacceptable, what happened to a journalist."

Saudi Arabia provided no evidence of its claims. Previous reports from Turkey suggest Mr Khashoggi was tortured before being beheaded.

Dr Patman is "highly sceptical" of the Saudis' version of events, saying the firing of a couple of officials and a few arrests is a "classic" dictator move.

"One way that dictators and authoritarian leaders often deal with that, is distance themselves from the people that have been carrying out their orders. This is not an unusual pattern."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel invoked the Nazi regime in condemning Saudi Arabia.

"Let us look to other countries where human rights are violated, where they are being trampled on," she said. "What unites us in Europe is the lesson we have finally learnt from the terrible times during Nazi rule, the Second World War, after centuries in Europe - we want and we must live together peacefully if we want to be happy nations."

Mr Trump has expressed reluctance to punish Saudi Arabia too harshly, citing the lucrative arms trade between the two countries. Lawmakers in the US have rubbished the Saudis' explanation.

"You don't bring 15 men and a bone saw to a fist fight with a 60-year-old," Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat, said in a statement.

"And if he was accidentally killed in a fist fight, then where is the body?"

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican like Mr Trump, called for a halt to arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Dr Patman says Mr Trump should be careful with what he says about the killing, and show more respect for journalists.

"I think many Americans would expect Mr Trump to stand up for the values America has always represented."