Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has filed a criminal case in a German court against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and four other high-ranking officials for “crimes against humanity” in connection with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The media watchdog’s lawsuit announcement came on Tuesday, four days after the United States released a declassified intelligence report which said that the crown prince, popularly known as MBS, approved the killing of the Saudi journalist.
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Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of Saudi policies under the crown prince, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The gruesome killing led by a Saudi hit squad drew global condemnation and adversely affected MBS’s global standing.
The complaint, which seeks an inquiry by prosecutors under Germany’s international jurisdiction laws, accuses Saudi Arabia of persecuting Khashoggi as well as dozens of other journalists.
“We call on the German prosecutor to take a stand,” Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of RSF, said in a statement.
“No one should be above international law, especially when crimes of humanity are at stake,” he said.
After the report’s release, Khashoggi’s fiancée called for MBS to be punished “without delay”
US President Joe Biden’s administration has decided not to apply sanctions on the Saudi crown prince for the murder of Khashoggi.
Saudi officials denounced the report, insisting that Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation” that did not involve the crown prince – the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
But RSF said it had gathered evidence of a “state policy to attack and silence journalists” which it had submitted to the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Monday.
Its report details the cases of 34 other journalists who have been jailed in Saudi Arabia, including the blogger Raif Badawi, who has been imprisoned in his home country since 2012 on charges of “insulting Islam”.
The principle of universal jurisdiction was enshrined in German law in 2002. It allows for grave crimes like genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity to be tried in national courts if international courts are not an option.
The procedure has already been used, for example, by campaigners fighting for accountability in Syria, with the trial of two former intelligence officers for alleged state torture during that country’s civil war.