Fury at threats to international rule of law

Mystery: Jamal Khashoggi’s supposed murder is not confirmed, and no body has been found.

Are Saudi Arabia, China and Russia rogue states? Reports of state-sponsored assassinations and abductions have shocked the world — sparking fears that international law is falling apart.

Monday, October 8. The second suspect in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal is identified as Alexander Mishkin, a doctor working for Russian intelligence.

Thursday, October 4. Meng Hongwei, the head of Interpol, is reported missing. It later emerged that he was abducted by Chinese authorities who accused him of corruption. He remains imprisoned.

Tuesday, October 2. Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi visits the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He never returns. Turkish officials soon make a grisly accusation: Khashoggi was murdered by a Saudi hit squad, they claim.

What links these incidents? All three are abuses of international law and order.

Condemnation was swift. “If Jamal was murdered, it sends chills down the spine of every activist, journalist and dissident,” writes Asli Aydintasbas.

Human rights advocate Michael Caster attacked China for thinking it can “detain the sitting head of an international organisation without serious consequences.”

An international statement previously condemned the Skripal poisoning as a “clear violation” of international law.

This language chimes with the definition of a rogue state, which is: “a nation or state regarded as breaking international law and posing a threat to the security of other nations.”

Do Russia, China and Saudi Arabia fit the definition?


Of course, some say. China ruthlessly pursues its interests with no regard to international norms. Russian aggression has plunged relations with the West to depths unknown since the Cold War. And the list of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia speaks for itself.

Consider the bigger picture, others say. Chinese business is a cornerstone of the world economy. Saudi Arabia is allied to powerful Western nations, and Russia just hosted the World Cup. Talk of “rogue states” is wrong.

You Decide

  1. Is it right to describe any of these countries as rogue states?


  1. Pick one of the following countries: Russia, China or Saudi Arabia. In one minute, write down all the things you associate with that country — good or bad. Share your ideas with the class. What does your list suggest about how that country is viewed?

Some People Say...

“International relations bears more than a slight resemblance to the mafia.”

Noam Chomsky

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Russia denies any involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, and has dismissed photographic evidence linking Chepiga to its intelligence services. Saudi Arabia has also denied any wrongdoing in relation to Jamal Khashoggi.
What do we not know?
Jamal Khashoggi has not been found, dead or alive, and we do not know exactly what happened to him inside the Saudi consulate.

Word Watch

Sergei Skripal
Former Russian military intelligence officer and double agent for the UK.
An international organisation that facilitates cooperation between police forces across the world.
Hit squad
Turkish intelligence believes the hit squad was comprised of 15 men. It is alleged that Khashoggi’s dismembered body was smuggled from the building before it was searched by the authorities.
Signed by the leaders of France, Germany, the US and the UK.

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