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The Long Arm of Transnational Repression

How authoritarian regimes are increasing repression beyond their borders

It has been five years since the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and not much has changed. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to have ordered his brutal killing, continues to be feted around the world. Calls for an independent investigation into the killing have been ignored. The kingdom’s crackdown on dissent continues apace.

Meanwhile, transnational repression continues elsewhere. Last month, the Canadian government announced that it was investigating credible allegations that the Indian government was behind the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh activist and Canadian citizen. The allegations sparked a diplomatic firestorm. Canada, after all, was accusing a fellow (albeit flawed) democracy of engineering an extraterritorial killing on its soil in a clear violation of Canadian sovereignty, to say nothing of international human-rights law. India has vehemently denied responsibility, and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in retaliation.

India's culpability remains to be seen (the Canadian government has not publicized the intelligence supporting its claim). But that the allegations have been leveled at all reflects a grim new trend: one in which repressive states seek to silence dissenting diasporic voices—among them journalists, human rights activists and minority groups—using tactics of intimidation, kidnapping and worse.

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