Visiting BINTEL — Oleh Bereziuk
During the last two years Ukraine’s foreign policy activity in the countries of the Middle East has increased significantly. Within the relatively short period of time, President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, managed to pay official visits to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar and negotiate with their state leaderships, which resulted in agreements on the expansion of political, economic, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation. At the same time, it should be noted that Ukraine’s positions in that region cannot be called strong yet. Obviously, for Ukraine to feel more confident, we need to pay more attention to information and analytical work, objectively evaluate our own capabilities and take into consideration the peculiarities of realizing our national interests in the region. At this, special attention should be paid to the specifics of the system of government of Arab countries, and especially — of the Arabian Gulf.
As the top international news agencies have recently been actively disseminating information the Saudi leadership’s being involved in the disappearance of the well-known Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, we asked a famous Ukrainian lawyer Oleh Bereziuk, to comment as an independent expert.
— Oleh Valeriyovych, there is a lot of information in the media about the involvement of the top state leadership of Saudi Arabia in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. And although one can hardly add something new to this information now, we have the right to be interested in how it is perceived in the society, and especially, how those allegations are, so to speak, explained. What do you yourself think about this?
— Indeed, today media give pride of place to this event. Especially often it is mentioned by leading western information agencies. I would not hurry to argue that there is sufficient justification for such allegations. Especially as the investigators have not said their last word, that is, there are no results of the investigation yet. So how can one announce a verdict or even simply publicize a private opinion? It would be right to wait for the results of the investigation.
— Then let us approach this case from a different side, taking into account your education of a lawyer, and ask the following question: How long, in your opinion, will this investigation last and who should be entrusted to conduct it?
— There won’t be an unambiguous answer to the first part of the question. It will all depend on the speed with which the necessary expertise is carried out, and on when the interrogations of suspects and witnesses will end. If you are interested in this fact, then you know that according to the main version of the investigation, Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, having entered the Saudi diplomatic mission in Turkey. You also know that, in accordance with international law, the diplomatic mission is a territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its law enforcement agencies have the right to conduct the investigation. At the same time, the diplomatic institution is located in Turkey, and the journalist disappeared while in that country. Thus, the Turkish law enforcement agencies also should investigate the case of his disappearance.
However, the situation is complicated by the fact that the relationship between the Turkish Republic and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is now quite tense. Therefore, I am not sure that their law enforcement agencies can establish the necessary interaction, without which one cannot count on a fast investigation of this case.
— Do you know anything about the course of the investigation?
— To tell the truth, little is known. I know that the Saudi Arabian Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened a criminal case and arrested more than two dozen people suspected of involvement in violent actions against Jamal Khashoggi. Investigative actions of Saudi Arabia are conducted fairly actively. I do not know though how the Turkish side has progressed in investigating this case.
— What, in your opinion, happened in reality and why the media constantly mention the involvement of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?
— Well, you again are asking what happened in reality… We will only know this when the results of the official investigation are made public! But a final conclusion about involvement or non-involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi can be drawn only after the verdict of the court.
Why are media so interested in Khashoggi’s disappearance? Firstly, because he was a world-known journalist, and therefore international corporate solidarity works. Secondly, he personally was in conflict with Mohammed bin Salman. And this cannot be ignored by mass media, who are eager for sensations.
There are also political factors that cannot be left out. Saudi Arabia is a serious political player with great influence not only in the region, but also throughout the Arab world. Undoubtedly, few political players, both regional and global, can refrain from using this situation in their favor. Obviously, many of them want to have additional levers of influence on the top leadership of that country. With this in mind, it is possible to put forward some well-grounded versions of what happened. In addition to the versions already published by media, we can talk about the excess of the performer (this happens when a person does something without being asked to) and about a provocation planned and conducted in the interests of third parties. Who are these third parties? The answer is: both, competitors in the struggle for power within the country, and agents of foreign intelligence services.
It is known that Saudi Arabia is competing for leadership in the region. Obviously, its competitors do not want it. And so it is obvious that their special services will try to discredit it in order to reduce its political influence.
— Do you not exclude that such competition can be inside the country itself? For example, for power?
— I will not deny the possibility of such a fact. Individuals who consider themselves worthy of being in power in that country may be interested in discrediting the personality of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This is a rather important motive. We should not exclude and the motives of personal revenge either. It is known that with Mohammed bin Salman’s taking the office, he began active socio-political reforms, and especially — in the fight against corruption. The fact that he ordered the arrest of more than a dozen royal family members suspected of corruption and illegal enrichment could be more than sufficient grounds for revenge. Especially when there are adequate funds for organizing such a provocation.
But in any case, all that I’ve mentioned is only versions. Each of them needs to be scrutinized and either verified or denied.
— Well, what do you think about this?
— If you want to know my personal opinion, I doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could order the death of a famous journalist, because his post is high and he is responsible not only for his actions, but for the fate of the entire country. That is, he has not only his rights, he also has duties. An official of this level does not make serious decisions alone. He is assisted by advisers, ministers, heads of special services. They all cant help understanding the negative consequences both for the country as a whole and for them personally, if the decisions taken at the highest state level are wrong, let alone if they contain signs of a crime.
When analyzing open access information, one should not ignore any of these versions. As I have said, the most simple of these — the excess of the performer. In my legal practice, such cases did happen quite often… As for this situation, it is necessary to work out all versions, since on the objective information about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, may depend not only the life of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but also the future of the whole country. And it is obvious that Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman is interested more than anybody else in the objective investigation of the case of disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.
Oleh Valeriyovych Bereziuk
Social activist, lawyer, human rights activist.
Graduated from the Law Faculty of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
Head of the NGO “Ukrainian Law Association”.
Author of numerous publications on the theory of law, constitutional law.