There is credible evidence that Saudi Arabia‘s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is liable for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a UN expert has said.
Agnes Callamard, a United Nations special rapporteur, has called for an impartial, international investigation to establish whether the ‘threshold of criminal responsibility has been met’.
In a 99-page report on the killing, Callamard said she had studied recordings of what happened at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi – a critic of the prince – was killed on October 2 last year.
She said experts found it ‘inconceivable’ that a 15-man mission to kill Khashoggi could have happened without Prince Mohammed’s knowledge.
Calling for sanctions on the prince’s ‘personal assets’ she said other high-level Saudi officials should also face a probe.
Mohammed bin Salman should face an independent, international investigation over ‘credible evidence’ that he is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a UN expert has said
Khashoggi (pictured) was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate last year. Riyadh eventually admitted he had been murdered but denied the prince knew of the operation
The UN expert’s evidence against the Crown Prince
In her 99-page report, Callamard explains some of the reasons why Khashoggi’s death must have had government backing:
- The killing occurred at a consulate
- The alleged hit squad ‘acted under cover of their status as officers’ and the encounter with Khashoggi was ‘only possible because of the pretence of government service’
- Two members of the team used diplomatic passports
- The Saudi consul general used his powers to clear out witnesses from the building
- Government vehicles were apparently used to transfer the body
- Nine team members flew to Turkey with diplomatic clearance.
She then explains why there is ‘credible evidence’ that the operation was linked to the prince himself:
- The prince was already known to have been behind a ‘organised and co-ordinated crackdown’ against the regime’s opponents before the Khashoggi killing
- The forces of the State ‘could not be used in this manner without his agreement or acquiescence’
- Experts believe it is ‘inconceivable’ that a sophisticated operation such as the Khashoggi killing could have been set up without his knowledge
- Saudi officials’ subsequent efforts to destroy evidence ‘could not have taken place without the Crown Prince’s awareness’.
Callamard said for instance that she had found evidence that ‘Khashoggi was himself fully aware of the powers held by the Crown Prince, and fearful of him.’
Laying out her claims, she said the operation to kill Khashoggi must have had government backing.
‘Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances,’ she said.
‘Every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the Crown Prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr Khashoggi, was being launched.
‘Thereafter, Saudi officials proceeded to take multiple steps apparently designed to destroy evidence, while simultaneously denying Mr Khashoggi’s death, until the government was forced to acknowledge the murder.
‘This destruction of evidence could not have taken place without the Crown Prince’s awareness.’
Explaining why she thought the Saudi government was involved, she said two of the alleged hit squad had used diplomatic passports, and that the encounter at the consulate was ‘only possible because of the pretense of government service’.
For her investigation, Callamard said that, among other things, she had viewed listened to an audio recording from inside the consulate of the killing itself.
Her report confirms the existence of an audio recording, although she said she was not allowed to make copies.
In addition, she was only granted access to 45 minutes of recordings when Turkish intelligence indicated they had at least seven hours, she said.
Addressing one of the main theories about the killing, she said she ‘could not reach firm conclusions’ on whether she could hear the sound of a saw in operation.
Calling for sanctions, she continued: ‘In view of the credible evidence into the responsibilities of the Crown Prince for (Khashoggi’s) murder, such sanctions ought also to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets abroad, until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution.’
Saudi Arabia has admitted that its agents killed Khashoggi in a premeditated murder, but denied that Prince Mohammed had any knowledge of the operation.
Riyadh’s prosecutors have accused ‘rogue agents’ of the state for undertaking the killing and have put 11 men on trial behind closed doors, five of whom face the death penalty.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of bin Salman, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The writer is pictured entering the consulate that day
Callamard has been conducting what she has described as ‘an independent human rights inquiry’ into Khashoggi’s death.
UN special rapporteurs are independent and do not speak for the world body.
In Wednesday’s report she said she found that the probes conducted so far by Saudi Arabia and Turkey had ‘failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths.’
She urged UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to launch an official international criminal investigation into the case, which she said would make it possible to ‘build-up strong files on each of the alleged perpetrators and identify mechanisms for formal accountability, such as an ad hoc or hybrid tribunal.’
She also called on the FBI in the United States, where Khashoggi was a resident, to open an investigation into the case, if it has not already done so, ‘and pursue criminal prosecutions within the United States, as appropriate.’
The report identified by name the 15 people she said were part of the mission to kill Khashoggi, and suggested that many of them were not on the list of 11 unnamed suspects facing a closed-door trial over the murder.
Wednesday’s report also found that there was evidence that ‘Saudi Arabia deliberately used consular immunity to stall Turkey’s investigations until the crime scene could be thoroughly cleaned.’
‘In view of my concerns regarding the fairness of the trial of the 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia, I call for the suspension of the trial,’ she said in the report.
Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said the investigation should aim to establish whether ‘the threshold of criminal responsibility was met’ by bin Salman and other top Saudi officials
British human rights group Article 19 welcomed the report, saying it provided ‘compelling evidence that the murder… was carried out on the orders of high-level Saudi officials’.
Khashoggi, who had written critically of the prince, was murdered and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year.
The journalist had last been seen entering the Saudi consulate on October 2 to obtain paperwork for marriage procedures.
Riyadh’s ever-changing explanations for the death led to worldwide suspicion that the prince was behind the operation.
Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of what happened, insisting for weeks that Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate alive.
After finally acknowledging that Khashoggi had died in the building, Saudi officials then claimed he had died accidentally during a brawl.
Changing tack again, the Saudis then admitted the journalist was murdered, charged 11 people but denied that the prince had been involved.
However, reports have suggested that Prince Mohammed was linked to the hit squad which killed Khashoggi and had issued threats against him in the past.
Suspects: Members of the alleged Saudi hit squad are seen at an Istanbul airport on October 2
The mystery deepened after footage emerged of a man appearing to walk away from the consulate wearing Khashoggi’s clothes.
A Turkish official described the man as a ‘body double’ and a member of the Saudi team sent to Istanbul to target the writer.
It is still unclear what happened to Khashoggi’s body.
Reports in Turkish media suggested that Khashoggi was cut up by a Saudi forensics expert sent to Istanbul with a bone saw.
America has also alleged that the prince’s right-hand man Saud al-Qahtani ‘was part of the planning and execution of the operation’ to kill Khashoggi.
The killing strained Saudi Arabia’s relations with the West and led to some demands for Europe and the U.S. to cut arms exports to the Gulf kingdom.
But U.S. President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron both rejected the idea of cancelling weapons deals.
Trump had called Saudi Arabia’s explanation ‘credible’ when the kingdom suggested that Khashoggi had died in a fight.
Prince Mohammed had commented on the Khashoggi case just last weekend, urging countries not to ‘exploit’ the killing for political gain.
Turkish police searching for Jamal Khashoggi’s body last November. It has yet to be found
Mohammed bin Salman called Khashoggi’s death a ‘painful crime’, once again distancing himself from the killing.
‘Any party exploiting the case politically should stop doing so, and present evidence to the (Saudi) court, which will contribute in achieving justice,’ he said.
His comments appeared to be a veiled warning to Turkey, which has been leading international pressure on Riyadh over the death and has demanded to know the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body, which has yet to be found.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously promised to detail Mr Khashoggi’s killing ‘in all its nakedness’.
Prince Mohammed said the kingdom was committed to ‘full justice and accountability’ in the case.
The prince, however, added that he wants strong relations with ‘all Islamic countries including Turkey’.
Turkish media reports and officials last year said that a 15-member Saudi team flew to Istanbul on October 2, knowing Mr Khashoggi would arrive.