WASHINGTON — A U.N. investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi says there is credible evidence that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other high-level Saudi officials are individually liable for the premeditated slaying.
UN investigator Agnes Callamard said Saudi Arabia was guilty under international law for the “deliberate, premeditated execution” of Khashoggi.
In the report released Wednesday, she said current sanctions on some senior officials do not go far enough and that bin Salman and his personal assets abroad should be hit by “targeted sanctions until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution.”
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered in October 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia insisted it had no knowledge of the incident, a position changed weeks after the murder when Saudi officials purported a group of rogue operators carried out the murder.
Callamard dismissed that contention, saying his death was an “extrajudicial killing for which the state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.” She said there is “credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s.”
U.S. officials have maintained that the murderers, which included 15 men sent from Riyadh, the Saudi capital, who used tools that included a bone saw, could not have acted without the authorization of bin Salman.
“Mr. Khashoggi’s killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible,” Callmard wrote. “His attempted kidnapping would also constitute a violation under international human rights law.
“From the perspective of international human rights law, State responsibility is not a question of, for example, which of the State officials ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s death; whether one or more ordered a kidnapping that was botched and then became an accidental killing; or whether the officers acted on their own initiative or ultra vires,” she wrote.
Saudi officials rejected the U.N. report. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, said it contained “nothing new” and was filled with”clear contradictions and baseless allegations which challenge its credibility,” according to news reports.
He insisted that “The Saudi judiciary is the sole party qualified to deal with the Khashoggi case and works with full independence” – a statement also challenged in the U.N. report.
“The Government of Saudi Arabia has invited representatives of Turkey and of the permanent members of the Security Council to attend at least some of the hearings. However, the Special Rapporteur has been told that this trial observation was conditional upon agreement to not disclose its details. Trial observation under those conditions cannot provide credible validation of the proceedings or of the investigation itself,” she wrote.
She called for the suspension of the trial for 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia.
After Khashoggi was murdered, his body was cut apart and removed from the consultate in bags. It has not been found.