UN rapporteur says Saudi officials murdered Khashoggi

Saudi Arabian officials “planned and perpetrated” the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a UN-led inquiry has concluded.

The UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, issued a statement in Geneva saying: “Evidence collected during my mission to Turkey shows a prime facie case that Mr Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia.”

She added: “The murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the sheer brutality of it has brought irreversible tragedy to his loved ones. It is also raising a number of international implications which demand the urgent attention of the international community including the United Nations.”

Callamard said Saudi officials had “seriously undermined” and delayed Turkey’s efforts to investigate the crime scene at its Istanbul consulate, where Khashoggi had gone to collect documents for his wedding. “Woefully inadequate time and access was granted to Turkish investigators to conduct a professional and effective crime-scene examination and search required by international standards for investigation,” she said, adding that it was “unconscionable” that Saudi authorities continued to fail to disclose the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains “after having admitted that he met his death within their custody in their consular premises”.

She said her team, including Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Duarte Nuno Vieira, a forensics expert, and Paul Johnston, a homicide and major crimes investigator, had been given access to some crucial information, including to parts of the chilling and gruesome audio material obtained and retained by the Turkish Intelligence agency.

She said the killing was part of a well evidenced pattern of killings globally of journalists, other human rights defenders, activists and opponents of various regimes. “Fleeing abroad in search of safety has become less and less a reliable form of protection,” the Special Rapporteur said.

A Saudi public prosecutor’s spokesman said last year 11 Saudis had been indicted and referred for trial over the case, with authorities seeking the death penalty for five. Saudi Arabia has denied Turkey’s request for extradition of the 11 suspects, amid conflicting claims over jurisdiction, Callamard said.

She had “major concerns” about the fairness of the trial proceedings and had sought an official visit to the kingdom. Callamard plans to present a final report to the UN Human Rights Council in June.