Extrajudicial Arrest, Kidnapping or Killing
The recent disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate on October 2 in Istanbul, Turkey high-lights the issues that can occur when people, who for a wide variety of reasons are targeted for extrajudicial arrest, kidnapping or assassination by government agencies. At this stage of the case with Jamal Khashoggi it will be interesting to see if he appears alive, he could have been arrested and extradited back to Saudi or left the consulate by another entrance or means, who knows…
The incident with Jamal Khashoggi was preceded in 2018 by the very murky assassination attempt of the former Russian GRU officer and double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. The UK government claims it was a political assassination ordered by the Russian Government but there are many inconsistencies and gaps in their story, but whatever the real story is, it was still a possible political assassination attempt.
For most people when they think of kidnappers and the like, they will have visions of masked criminals snatching people from cars or off the street, they will not be thinking of police or government agencies; false or extrajudicial arrest is the same as kidnapping and happens regularly.
From a kidnapping and crisis management view point this can be the most difficult type of incident to deal with as your friend, client or associate has been abducted by an organization that has the local law and for the most part that of the country on their side. This is where the “gungho” shoot’em up approaches to dealing with kidnap and ransom situations fall further into the realm of complete fantasy, as you cannot go around the world shooting the local cops or soldiers if they decide to detain you or your clients. Chances are you would not legally be able to have a gun in the first place and any illegal firearms would give those arresting you the justification and means to put you in jail for a long time or just a reason to bullet in your head.
If you, your friends, clients or associates think they could be targeted politically for whatever reason, be it you’re exposing government corruption, calling out corrupt and incompetent local politicians or support the opposition to those currently in power you should have a crisis plan in place.
Even in supposed first world countries it’s very easy for people to be arrested for being vocal about their beliefs. In first world countries if charged and convicted activist and journalists can still get jail time and hefty fines. In non-first world countries activist or journalists can end up having major issues ranging from assaults, jail time, sexual assault or assassination.
The basis of all security or crisis plans is the threat assessment and this needs to be very thorough and cover all aspects of the personal security of those that could be targeted and include a lifestyle check to identify anything where they could be set up for an arrest. Police and government agencies planting evidence is an issue that has been around since law enforcement first evolved and must be taken into consideration, the result of such actions can lead to long prison terms for the victims if they are unable to prove they were set up.
Decent local private investigators or trusted people need to be at hand to follow-up on potential arrests or disappearances to confirm what has actually occurred. Most of time family members, friends or associates will not be in proper emotional state to do a logical follow-up investigation and could end up getting arrested themselves.
Personally, I have little time for attorneys, most are leaches but there are a few good ones out there, you need to find them and have their numbers at hand in case of any legal issues or arrests. Over the years I have seen quite a few clients have supposed high-end attorneys on retainer who done absolutely nothing for them. In one case that comes to mind the attorneys who were on a very large retainer were clearly scared to do anything, once the threat to the client was over they were happy to spend the retainer by pretending to solve non-issues they had scared the client into believing were issues. Use attorneys when required, but do not trust them!
Always have bail or payoff money available, in many countries a quick donation to the right people can solve problems, so, have the donation and know the right people. In more complicated locations know the procedures for bailing someone out of jail if they are arrested, have the money available and have a bondsman’s number ready.
Have a support network outside of your area and direct network that in the case of an arrest or political abduction can be alerted and make the relevant people aware of the situation, this could mean alerting embassy’s, politicians or journalists. Its best for this to be done through third party players as those that are directly associated with those arrested or detained could also be targeted and its best they are not seen to be antagonizing the situation.
Unlike conventional kidnap for ransom situations social media can play a major part preventing someone going from being arrested to disappeared and being found dead in a ditch somewhere. Police, government agencies and their politically associated groups for the most part have a public image that they try to keep as respectable as possible. They can defend themselves for arresting and investigating activist’s etc. but, if people who were last seen in their custody turn up dead, it can result in unwanted questions and attention. Have a social media crisis response plan in place!
To me the basics of personal security is counter surveillance, always be aware of what’s going on around you, always be aware of who is watching or following you and keep your communications and computer security tight. In incidents where you must attend a meeting be very careful and try to chose neutral, public locations and have someone watching your back who is able to video and report any potential threats or hostile incidents.
In such cases as Jamal Khashoggi, where he went into the Saudi Arabian consulate, a location where he knew he was not welcome and had absolutely zero personal security but went anyway to pick up a marriage license, all I can say is look for other options and don’t put yourself in dangerous situations. Could the marriage license have been posted, could he have sent a courier or attorney, or could he have waited?
It always best to avoid any potentially hostile situations, if due to your career or beliefs you can’t avoid them, then at least have a crisis plan in place.
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Investigative Journalist Security: Staying Alive to Tell The Truth
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