There is “credible evidence” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials are liable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October and should be investigated, a UN investigator has said.
In what The Guardian calls an “excoriating 100-page analysis” of Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called on other countries to invoke universal jurisdiction for an “international crime” and make arrests if warranted.
Senior Saudi officials have insisted the the 59-year-old’s murder was the result of a “rogue” operation and not carried out on the explicit orders of bin Salman. Eleven people are currently on trial charged with the murder, five of whom are facing the death penalty, in the Gulf Kingdom.
Khashoggi’s killing “provoked widespread revulsion and tarnished the image of the Crown Prince, previously admired in the West for pushing deep changes including tax reform, infrastructure projects and allowing women to drive”, reports Reuters.
The CIA has concluded that bin Salman very likely ordered the murder himself, “based in part on the same understanding of his power over all actions taken by the Saudi security apparatus” which Callamard references, says CBS News. However, the special rapporteur stopped short of blaming him directly for the murder.
Instead, she determined that there was “credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s”.
“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 [beyond their authority],” the report says.
Therefore it was “an extrajudicial killing for which the state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible”, she said.
The UN’s findings “will heap pressure on the kingdom, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has repeatedly been urged to explain what he knew about the murder of Khashoggi”, says the Guardian.
The BBC reports that the UN Security Council could now face pressure to “initiate a follow-up criminal investigation into the murder to build up strong files on each of the alleged perpetrators and identify mechanisms for formal accountability, such as a tribunal”.
The report says the crown price should also be “subject to the targeted sanctions already imposed by some UN member states, including the US, against other named individuals allegedly involved in the killing”, says the BBC.
These would focus on his personal assets abroad and would remain in place until he is cleared of any responsibility or involvement in the murder.
Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting for Al Jazeera from outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi was killed, said the report’s findings were likely to provide Turkey with “momentum” to put pressure on US President Donald Trump to “come out and take action against bin Salman”.
CNN says: “Khashoggi’s killing and the continued fallout from it has caused a diplomatic crisis for Riyadh, ruining Saudi Arabia’s already shaky international reputation and leading many allies to distance themselves from bin Salman.
“While US President Donald Trump has shied away from taking a hard line against bin Salman, wishing to retain Riyadh’s support in pressuring Iran and flow of money for arms sales, other American politicians have sought to punish the Saudis.”
However, any move by the UN to launch a direct investigation into bin Salman is still likely to face stiff opposition from the US. The Independent says Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler remains “a key White House ally and a figure in the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran”.