BEIRUT – The disappearance of an eminent Saudi journalist raises an obscure question for anyone who dares to criticize governments or speak against those in power: will the world have shoulders?
The dictators and autocrats have always tried to silence dissidents, even those who flee abroad to escape their grip. But they only seem to become more audacious in addressing their detention book, threats and killings.
This may be partly due to the fact that, despite decades of human rights talks in international circles, the violations suffer only silent reproaches.
in the United States, the Trump administration avoids heavy criticism of human rights abuses by allies, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the Philippines, or leaders seeking to cultivating ties with, such as Russia, China and North Korea.
Trump's complaints about "globalism" and the tough stance against the International Criminal Court also pointed out that Washington has little interest in international enforcement against human rights violators. Western countries have turned to the interior, affected by the increase in xenophobic forces ̵
So when Turkish officials said they believed that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been killed last week after he disappeared during a visit to his country's consulate in Istanbul, there were good reasons to wonder if there they would have serious repercussions.
So even when China arrested the former head of Interpol after capturing it in mid-air – the last Chinese figure to vanish just to appear in court, accused of corruption  So even when Russia was accused of poisoning a former spy in Britain.
Economic and diplomatic interests often lead countries to neglect the killings, even of their own citizens.
Recent cases more chilling, an Italian graduate student, Giulio Regeni, was found abandoned on the side of a road outside the Egyptian capital, Cairo, his body mutilated and his bon is broken. Suspects in Italy immediately fell on the Egyptian security forces, known for their use of torture. But almost three years later, no one was blamed, and while Italy says it continues to investigate, it has continued its ties with Egypt, in particular with the development of a natural gas field off the coast of Egyptian coast from the largest Italian energy company, ENI.
Sara Kayyali, a researcher in Syria for Human Rights Watch, said that the disappearance of Khashoggi "is not only sad, it is terrifying."
"We are all amazed at the lack of condemnation from our traditional allies for the acts we are seeing happening, more recently with the case of Jamal, I think it is a very challenging time for all of us and that our traditional allies do not are around, "he said. "It seems that it is the age of impunity, but we will not let it go."
The Arab Diaspora
After the wave of pro-democracy protests that shook the Arab world in 2011 came the reaction – brutal repressions. While millions of Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya have left their countries of origin, autocrats have tracked down their vocal critics.
The disappearance of Khashoggi has shaken the large community of Arab exiles who found relative security in Turkey, said an Egyptian dissident who fled his country after the 2013 massacre. He had met Khashoggi only a few days before. He said he is considering where to go next, adding that his wife has just got a job in Saudi Arabia, but is afraid to go there. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety.
"It's a completely new level of dangerous," he said. It refers to the times when the Gaddafi Muammar of Libya called his adversaries into "stray dogs" of the diaspora and sent death squads to shoot them down in European capitals.
An important Libyan deserter, Mansour al-Kikhia who disappeared from Cairo in 1993. Fate was unknown until 2012, a year after the expulsion and death of Gaddafi, when his body was found in a freezer in a center of intelligence in Libya.
A dissident from Bahrain who lived in Britain, Sayed Alwadaei, said that these days he feared for his wife when she had to go to the embassy to legalize legal representation for an ongoing trial against her at home .
"We do not trust that if you go to the embassy, it will go unharmed," he said.
The Embassy of Bahrain in London rejected Alwadaei's concerns as "nothing but a cynical attempt to exploit a current news".
Today's dissidents have more tools to tell their mind from exile, making them more dangerous in the eyes of home regimes. But the tools of the autocrats are even more different.
Those in exile in Turkey say their governments have infiltrated their circles, spying on them physically and through social media. An Egyptian activist said he fled his refuge in Turkey after nearly five years because the government's spies infiltrated the opposition television station he had set up.
With the government gaining ground in Syria, activists fear being pursued in the Diaspora.  A prominent Syrian in exile, Rami Abdurrahman, who has been monitoring the war for years and now has become a British citizen, said that a senior Syrian military official appointed him in meetings as the next goal, "wherever I may be".
Russia has been accused of following the turncoat spies without paying much attention to international borders and norms.
In 2006, the former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko, who fled to Britain and became a harsh critic of President Vladimir Putin, who died after drinking tea cooked with radioactive Polonium-210 in London. The investigations concluded that Russia's security service killed him, probably by order of Putin. The Russian government has denied any responsibility.
In March, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious in the English city of Salisbury after being exposed to a Soviet-styled nervous agent known as Novichok. They spent weeks in critical condition but survived. Months later, a civilian died after being accidentally exposed to the poison.
British officials said the attack on the Skripal received "senior-level approval of the Russian state" and announced that the two Russian agents were in default. The British government claims to have evidence that the men work for the Russian military intelligence agency. Moscow denies any role in poisoning.
In retaliation, Britain, the countries of the European Union and the United States expelled dozens of Russian diplomats, Britain put more control over Russian funds and Washington imposed limited financial sanctions. Still, Trump was reluctant to speak openly against the attack.
There were also less definitive cases, including the death of a Russian business man in London, just a week after the Skripal attack. The British police are treating the death of Nikolai Glushkov as a murder, after an autopsy revealed that he died from neck compression. Glushkov was an associate of Boris Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch and critic of the Kremlin who died in contested circumstances in 2013.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has always challenged foreign governments and international rights groups, supported by the global economic weight of your country, military power and diplomatic weight. This raised concerns about the fate of civil society within the country, as well as the risks associated with appointing Chinese officials to positions in international organizations.
Xi has embarked on a broad anti-corruption campaign that has captured numerous political enemies – including Chinese communities outside the country
The most recent to fall is the chairman of Interpol, Meng Hongwei , who was arrested on arrival in Beijing at the end of last month. Since then, the Ministry of Public Security has said that Meng, who left his post, has been investigated for accepting bribes and other crimes that were the result of his "obstinacy".
Such vague accusations are typical of China's highly opaque judicial system that has incarcerated characters such as dissident writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
The independent political analyst based in Beijing Zhang Lifan said that the handling of the Meng case by China undermines the leadership's insistence that theirs is a "law-governed" country.
"In China, the disappearance is something that happens quite often," Zhang said. "It's just that this time it was presented to the international public in such a special way."
Assassinations and Deliveries
A weak place in the ruling dynasty is not a protection: witness one of the most blatant instances of murder in recent memory, when the foreign brother-in-law Kim Jong Nam, leader of North Korea, died in 2017 at a Malaysian airport in an attack that the authorities said used VX nerve agent.
In March, Trump's administration referred to it only indirectly, perhaps covering with an eye to future diplomacy. Washington only determined that Pyongyang used chemical weapons, an obvious reference to murder without going into details.
Israel and the Palestinians have a history of murder. The Mossad of Israel killed several leaders of the PLO and Hamas in the Arab world and Gaza, while a group of Palestinians attempted to kill the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1982. Palestinian militants murdered the minister of Israeli tourism in 2001. Tehran blamed Israel for a series of killings of prominent Iranian nuclear scientists at the start of this decade.
During the "war on terror" post 11 September under President George W. Bush, the CIA program of "extraordinary rendition" and torture of suspects in secret "black sites" was a key US strategy to neutralize the enemy. More than 50 countries participated with some like Poland and Lithuania allowing prisons to be managed on their territory.
And, of course, the United States made the most notable assassination of this century when the Navy SEALs under President Barack Obama traced Osama bin Laden to Pakistan and killed him in 2011.
"It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits," Obama would say in his latest speech on the state of the Union.