Blaming Khashoggi killing on top officials doesn’t absolve Saudi state: UN expert

Blaming Khashoggi killing on top officials doesn’t absolve Saudi state: UN expert

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Agnes Callamard (center), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, holds a press briefing in New York. October 25, 2018. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Agnes Callamard (center), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, holds a press briefing in New York. October 25, 2018. UN Photo/Mark Garten

The U.N.'s top expert on arbitrary executions says Saudi Arabia can't 'wash its hands' by blaming the Khashoggi murder on top officials.

UNITED NATIONS – Saudi officials implicated in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are of such senior rank that their actions may represent the actions of the Saudi state, a top U.N. human rights expert said Thursday.

Thus far, Saudi Arabia has arrested more than a dozen individuals in connection with Khashoggi’s death and dismissed five senior officials, including Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.

Another man implicated by the kingdom is Ahmad bin Hassan Asiri, the country’s second-leading intelligence official.

Despite the seniority of Qahtani and Asiri, Saudi Arabia maintains Khashoggi’s death was the fault of private citizens acting without the knowledge of their government.

Agnes Callamard is the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

“Where do we begin, where do we stop our construction of the state? They were representing the state when they acted as they acted. The state cannot wash its hands from its responsibilities.”

Thus far the international community appears to be at an impasse about how to respond to the Khashoggi incident.

The U.S. and others say Turkey and Saudi Arabia needs to wrap up their own investigations before they get further involved.

Meanwhile, human rights groups are calling on Turkey to formally request an independent U.N. investigation, but Turkey’s president seems to enjoy feeding information to the press himself and keeping Turkish law enforcement, not international investigators, in the driver’s seat.

Callamard thinks that instinct is misguided, especially if Turkey wants its evidence to be taken seriously:

“The role of an international investigation is not to take away the role of those countries to implement their obligations. It’s not to suggest that they should be tried in a third country; they can be tried in those countries. The international team can validate, or not, as the case may be, the evidence and conclusions of the other investigations.”

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