United Nations, New York – The fiancee of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the United Nations official who investigated his killing made an impassioned plea for justice on Thursday, days before the first anniversary of his death.
Hatice Cengiz, who was preparing to marry Khashoggi when he was killed in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2 last year, complained that “no concrete action” had been taken since the incident to identify and prosecute his killers.
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“What is so sad for me is not seeing the punishment of the perpetrators,” Cengiz told a small group of reporters through a Turkish interpreter.
“Imagine that the entire world remains silent over Jamal’s killing. This silence and inertia created huge disappointment on my side.”
At the time of his death, Khashoggi was a legal resident of the United States.
UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard, who investigated the murder, urged Cengiz and others to be “patient and resilient”, saying justice would only be won after a “long haul” given the current geopolitical climate.
“Accountability is not delivered in 12 months, that’s summary justice. True justice takes time and I know it’s painful, but that’s the reality of the world we live in,” said Callamard.
Callamard also dismissed a domestic trial of 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia as a sham, adding that “political, economic and symbolic pathways” should be pursued to isolate Riyadh diplomatically.
The UN rapporteur urged the CIA to declassify its files on the killing, and for the FBI to open a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, she urged the G20 group of rich countries to move their November 2020 meeting, which is set to be in Riyadh.
Bin Salman’s role in the killing
Callamard added that if passed, the Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability Act, currently being discussed in the US Congress, could also help identify Khashoggi’s killers and make it hard for them to obtain US visas.
Cengiz and Callamard spoke on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, hours after revelations in a new documentary that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, had accepted some degree of responsibility for the killing.
In a trailer to a PBS documentary set to air next week, MBS said: “I get all the responsibility because it happened under my watch”. However, Prince Mohammed did not admit to ordering the murder, saying he could not possibly monitor all “three million government employees” in the kingdom.
Khashoggi, a US-based Washington Post columnist, visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get the papers he needed to marry Cengiz.
He was allegedly killed while inside the consulate, and his body reportedly dismembered and removed from the building. His remains have not been found.
The CIA assessed that MBS had ordered the killing.
In June, Callamard issued a report that detailed a “deliberate, premeditated execution”, and called for MBS and other top Saudi officials to be investigated.
The killing sparked a global uproar, further tarnishing the young crown prince’s image and undermining ambitious plans to improve the country’s abysmal human rights record and diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons.
Officials in Riyadh, who initially said Khashoggi had left the consulate unharmed, now say the journalist was killed in a rogue operation that did not involve the prince.
Answering a question from Al Jazeera, Callamard said MBS’s comment in the new documentary was “interesting” but that she “cannot take it at face value”.
“It does not point to any personal sense of responsibility. He has not apologised to Hatice yet, or the family members,” said Callamard.
Cengiz said the prince’s comments displayed a “pure political manoeuvre”.
“By saying that everything happened under his watch, he’s sending the world a message that he’s more influential than the king of Saudi Arabia, and is the real head of the country,” said Cengiz.
“He’s also distancing himself from the killing of Jamal, saying it happened under his watch but that he was not involved in the crime.”