UN says credible proof to probe Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi killing

A UN probe report released on Wednesday says it has found credible evidence to recommend an investigation against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials over the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, above, (Photo Credit: Fars News Agency), in Istanbul late last year.

Saudi Arabia dismissed the report by saying it contains “nothing new” and is full of contradictions” and “baseless allegations.”

The 101-page report by UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, also recommended sanctions on Salman’s personal foreign assets by pointing out that such curbs were announced in the past even before the guilt was determined.

Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for Washington Post and a critic of the crown prince, was the victim of a premeditated execution and extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law, the report said.

The crown prince must have been aware of the plot to eliminate Khashoggi since it involved government coordination and resources. The destruction of evidence would not have been possible without his knowledge, she said.

Many journalists and activists were recently detained and tortured in Saudi Arabia. The crown prince encouraged such crackdown and Khashoggi’s killing has to be seen in this context, the report said.

The investigation, which started in January this year, was more focused on those who abused their positions of authority to eliminate a man who fled the kingdom in fear for his life than finding the smoking gun and the person holding it.

The report said Saudi Arabia and Turkey did not quickly respond to reports of Khashoggi’s disappearance and murder. They did not investigate his case in accordance with international standards.

Saudi Arabia acknowledged Khashoggi’s murder in their Istanbul consulate only after weeks.
It took more than a fortnight for Saudi Arabia and Turkey to start a joint investigation into the murder.

Saudi diplomats allowed Turkish investigators to inspect the crime scene only after removing the last traces of evidence. Even then, Turkish investigators were allowed to remain there only for six hours.

Turkish investigators failed to immediately search the residence of the Saudi consul in Istanbul or interview him, the report said.

Listed below are some of Callamard’s recommendations.

  • The suspects should ideally be prosecuted and tried outside Turkey or Saudi Arabia.
  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres should set up a follow-up criminal investigation of the perpetrators.
  • Saudi Arabia must accept responsibility for the murder of Khashoggi, pay reparations to his family and apologise to Turkey for committing the murder on their soil.
  • FBI must open an investigation into the Khashoggi case and pursue criminal prosecutions within the US.
  • Amid doubts over the fairness of the trial of the 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia, the trial should be suspended.

Callamard said CCTV cameras inside the consulate had captured Khashoggi’s killing and she viewed the video footage during the investigation. The audio captured sounds which suggested that a saw was used to dismember the journalist’s body.

A 15-member Saudi team had arrived in Istanbul on October 2 to kill Khashoggi and destroy the evidence.

Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate the same day to collect some papers for his upcoming marriage as his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz waited outside.

Cengiz complained to a top Turkish official when Khashoggi failed to emerge from the consulate even after several hours.

In the meantime, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir described the investigation report as an attempt to prejudice the kingdom’s leadership and remove Khashoggi’s case from the course of justice.