If you consider the Jamal Khashoggi murder, there are several parallels to the deaths of two women in Sudan, which have been linked to a SA envoy and her partner, writes Konanani Happy Raligilia.
International relations are conducted through the harmonious and cordial exchange of diplomatic missions in the form of ambassadors and diplomats. It is important to note that not all relations between countries are a bed of roses, some are bitterly sour.
In the same vein, countries do everything humanly possible to minimise those differences and to strive for the highest level of diplomatic discipline and protocol.
But the allegations surrounding the murders of two young Sudanese women, named Nisreen and Marwa, in the capital city Khartoum in December 2019, are shocking.
South African deputy ambassador Zabantu Ngcobo and her partner are facing a murder investigation after their driver, and an accomplice who is a medical student implicated the couple in the murders.
According to Al Sudani, the deputy ambassador and her partner had the killings allegedly carried out as part of a test run for killing an intelligence officer, who was sending damaging reports to the South African government.
Whether the murders as reported in Daily Maverick were committed allegedly for the purposes of satanic rituals, or at the instruction of the deputy ambassador's partner, is neither here nor there. However, what sends chills down the spine is the fact that the events leading up to the deaths of Nisreen and Marwa sounded more like a scene from a James Bond movie.
Unfortunately, this action could possibly bring the name of South Africa into disrepute in diplomatic cycles. This is because international law customs discourage states or countries from treating either their citizens or other persons in the manner they wish to, in instances where such treatment may potentially violate human rights.
The deaths of Nisreen and Marwa bear a striking similarity to the murder of former Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in October 2018.
A consulate is a diplomatic mission and has more or less the status of an embassy.
Khashoggi was lured into the embassy by the Saudi officials to process his planned marriage documentation. He was accompanied by his then partner, Hatice Cengiz, who later alerted the law enforcement agencies when Khashoggi did not resurface from the Saudi embassy.
The two Sudanese women were not so lucky because there was no one to alert the law enforcement agencies of the imminent threat to their lives.
Khashoggi and the two women were killed brutally and their bodies dismembered. Nisreen and Marwa's bodies were later stuffed in plastic bags and disposed of.
The perpetrators were seemingly granted access, with or without the knowledge of the ambassadors, to either the embassy in the Khashoggi murder and the residential apartment situated at the Riyadh diplomatic block, as in the case of the two Sudanese women, for the purposes of committing murder.
All the victims are believed to have been killed either inside the embassy or the residential apartment, and this is worrying due to the diplomatic nature of immunity that these buildings enjoy.
Another striking similarity in the commission of the murders of Khashoggi and the two Sudanese women was that at least one of the perpetrators in each incident had a medical qualification or is a medical student, and was responsible for dismembering the bodies.
The ultimate targets (Khashoggi and the intelligence officer) were either labelled a spy of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or belonged to the spying community of the State Security Agency (SSA).
In both cases, the Saudi ambassador and South African deputy ambassador claimed no knowledge of the killings.
The Saudi Arabian ambassador was expelled, while Ngcobo and her partner were withdrawn from Khartoum.
Judging by the two scenarios, it seems very clear that those who murdered Nisreen and Marwa were trying to emulate the Khashoggi murder.
If the deputy ambassador were aware of either a plan to commit or participated in the commission of the murders, she could be held criminally liable for the double murders or at least as an accessory after the fact.
It remains to be seen whether the South African government will accord her diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.
As indicated earlier on, immunity does not condone human rights violations in any manner.
A landmark case of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre & Others v The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development & Others on Al-Bashir, serves as a yardstick to the would-be violators of human rights under the guise of diplomatic immunity.
Surprisingly, the former president of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, was mysteriously whisked out of South Africa before he could be held accountable.
In the end, diplomats have to be reminded of the fact that, if they participate in unlawful actions, it may warrant non-immunity and could invite dire consequences.
At all times, they ought to conduct themselves in a more professional and highest possible diplomatic ethos.
- Konanani Happy Raligilia is a senior lecturer at the University of South Africa and writes in his personal capacity.
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