Khashoggi probe to push for accountability: UN investigator

United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions blasts Saudi trials in Khashoggi case as substandard.

Protesters holding placards demonstrate against the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London on October 26, 2018 in London, England. Mr Khashoggi, a US-based c
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Arabia's leadership, was killed and dismembered inside its consulate in Istanbul [Jack Taylor/Getty Images]

United Nations – Inquiries into the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi should not end once her report on the killing is submitted in the coming weeks, United Nations investigator Agnes Callamard has said.

Callamard, an academic who leads an international probe into the killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, is set to release her findings to the UN Human Rights Council before its next session in June.

“My report is … going to spend a lot of time and pages on the next steps and the recommendations and how we provide accountability to Mr Khashoggi, to his family, friends and colleagues,” Callamard told Al Jazeera on Thursday.

It will examine how “we ensure that the killing, and the vacuum the killing generated in terms of accountability, [so] that we take steps to address the vacuum”, she added.

Callamard said while she cannot prosecute any suspects, she can refer the case higher up the UN system.

This could include calls for more scrutiny at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, at the UN Security Council in New York, or by the head of the organisation, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“I’m not a court of law. I cannot try the perpetrators. I can provide the information, I can recommend that the perpetrators and the masterminds be tried, but I cannot do that myself,” Callamard said.

“You have to wait a few more months as I go through the various options, but you will find that in the report.”

‘Brutal and premeditated killing’

Khashoggi was killed after he entered the Saudi consulate to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. After initially offering contradictory statements, Riyadh confirmed the journalist was killed inside the building.

The US Senate, after a closed-door briefing by the CIA, adopted a resolution in December naming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as “responsible” for the murder – a conclusion the kingdom denies.

Within days of wrapping up her January 28 to February 3 mission to Turkey, Callamard concluded the evidence pointed to a “brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated” by Saudi officials.

Since then, she has received extra police and forensic reports from Turkey, she told Al Jazeera. Those documents were still being translated.

The Saudi public prosecutor indicted 11 unnamed suspects in November, including five who could face the death penalty on charges of ordering and committing the crime.

But these trials “could not be seen as the appropriate response to the killing of Mr Khashoggi”, Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, said.

For Callamard, those trials fall below global standards for fairness and she has urged Riyadh to reveal the defendants’ names and the fate of 10 others initially arrested.

Call for sanctions

Louis Charbonneau, the UN director at Human Rights Watch, urged countries to slap targeted sanctions on top Saudi officials who are blamed for the killing in Callamard’s report.


The global community must make it “clear to the Saudi government that there will be no business as usual with a government that lures a journalist and regime critic to a diplomatic outpost and dismembers him,” Charbonneau told Al Jazeera.

Still, Saudi Arabia may only get limited blowback via the UN system, he added.

UN chief Guterres is “reluctant” to launch his own probe into the killing, and Saudi allies such as the United States and the United Kingdom can veto any proposed investigation or sanctions on Riyadh in the Security Council, added Charbonneau.

The Human Rights Council can “highlight Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record”, he said.

“Going forward, UN member states should think creatively about ways of ensuring that we can have credible international investigations of heinous crimes like the Khashoggi murder that don’t rely solely on the decision-making of timid international diplomats like the current UN secretary-general,” Charbonneau said.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor who was living in the US, had gone to the Saudi consulate to collect documents for his planned wedding.

A critic of the Saudi government and the crown prince, Khashoggi had resisted pressure from Riyadh to return home. His body has yet to be found.

Follow James Reinl on Twitter: @jamesreinl

Source: Al Jazeera