Saudi Arabia Sentences 5 to Death for Journalist Khashoggi’s Murder

Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO
Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO

Ignoring the findings of a report prepared by a UN Special Rapporteur, Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death and three to jail over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Following a six-month investigation, UN Special Rapporteur (on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings) Agnes Callamard had released her findings into the killing of Mr Khashoggi in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Her report had analyzed evidence on the basis of international human rights law, and considered steps that could have prevented his murder.

However, a Saudi court rejected her findings by ruling that the killing was not premeditated, but carried out “at the spur of the moment”. According to Reuters, Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor and spokesman Shalaan al-Shalaan said the court dismissed charges against three of the 11 people tried, finding them not guilty.

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Reuters adds that Khashoggi was a U.S. resident and a critic of the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MbS. It is still believed that MbS had either ordered or approved Khashoggi’s murder and those close to him have been acquitted.

Meanwhile, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard said that the court verdict is a mockery of justice. In a series of tweets, Callamard argues that the hearings were held behind closed door even though none of the justification for holding a trial in camera under international law applied to this particular trial.

Moreover, she said, the execution of Jamal Khashoggi demanded an investigation into the chain of command to identify the masterminds, as well as those who incited, allowed or turned a blind eye to the murder, such as the Crown Prince; this was not investigated.

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Callamard adds that the judge appeared to have concluded that the killing of Khashoggi was an accident since there seems to be no intent. “To suggest that at the spur of the moment, the killers decided to cut down his body is utterly ridiculous. Dismemberment requires minimum planning,” Callamard said.

She added that under international human rights law, the killing of Khashoggi was an extrajudicial execution for which the State of Saudi Arabia is responsible, but at no point did the trial considered the responsibilities of the State.

The 18 Saudi officials, present on their own in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for more than 10 days, cleaned up the crime scene. “This is obstruction of justice and a violation of the Minnesota Protocol for the investigation of arbitrary killings,” Callamard stated.

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Rakesh Raman