GENEVA/RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials should be investigated over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi since there is credible evidence they are liable for his death, a U.N. rights investigator said on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia`s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, rejected the investigator`s report as "nothing new".
He added in a tweet: "The report of the rapporteur in the human rights council contains clear contradictions and baseless allegations which challenge its credibility." Khashoggi’s death stirred widespread disgust and hurt the image of crown prince, previously admired in the West for pushing to end the kingdom`s oil dependence and easing social restrictions including by allowing women to drive.
After the killing some Western executives pulled out of a major investment forum in Riyadh, but big investors have been pushing ahead with deals this year in a sign that an effort by the kingdom to return to business as usual is making some headway. Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called on countries to invoke universal jurisdiction for what she called the international crime and make arrests if individuals` responsibility is proven.
The report, based on a six-month investigation, also calls on the United States to "open an FBI investigation, if one is not already open, and pursue criminal prosecutions within the United States as appropriate." The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Callamard urged states to widen sanctions to include the crown prince and his assets abroad, unless the man seen by many as the de facto Saudi ruler can prove he has no responsibility.
Khashoggi, a critic of the prince and a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 where he was to receive papers ahead of his wedding. His body was dismembered and removed from the building, the Saudi prosecutor has said, and his remains have not been found.
"What needs to be investigated is the extent to which the crown prince knew or should have known of what would have happened to Mr. Khashoggi, whether he directly or indirectly incited the killing...whether he could have prevented the execution when the mission started and failed to do so," Callamard told reporters.
"It is the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur that Mr. Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law," her report said.
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.
Callamard said the Saudi trial should be suspended, citing concerns over secret hearings and a potential miscarriage of justice. Instead, a follow-up international criminal probe should be launched, she said.
The CIA and some Western countries believe the crown prince ordered the killing, which Saudi officials deny. Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, who had waited outside the consulate while he was killed inside, called on the United States to do more to bring his killers to justice.
"Washington has chosen not to use its strong ties and leverage with Riyadh to get the Saudis to reveal the truth about Jamal’s murder and to ensure those responsible are held accountable," Hatice Cengiz wrote in a New York Times op-ed.
Critics have accused President Donald Trump of letting the Saudis off the hook after Khashoggi’s death, but a senior administration official told Reuters this month the message to the kingdom is that it remains a "very hot issue".
The U.N. report publishes excerpts of what it calls conversations inside the consulate shortly before Khashoggi arrived there and during his final moments.
A few minutes before Khashoggi arrived, Salah al-Tubaigy, an Interior Ministry forensics doctor who would dismember the body, said he hoped his job would "be easy", according to the report.
Tubaiqy continued: "Joints will be separated. It is not a problem. The body is heavy. First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them."
The material relies on recordings and forensic work by Turkish investigators and information from the trials of the suspects in Saudi Arabia, the report said. Callamard said that she could not reach firm conclusions about what the team was told was the sound of a "saw" in the operation.
Assessments of the recordings by intelligence officers in Turkey and elsewhere suggested Khashoggi may have been injected with a sedative and then suffocated, the report said.
Reacting to the report, Human Rights Watch urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to scrutinise what it called the Saudi "intolerance of dissent and climate of impunity that made Khashoggi’s brutal and brazen murder possible."
Callamard went to Turkey this year with forensic and legal experts and said she received evidence from Turkish authorities. "This human rights inquiry has shown that there is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the crown prince demanding further investigation," she added, urging U.N. Secretary-General to establish an international probe.
Asked if universal jurisdiction meant potential arrests of suspects abroad, Callamard said: "If and when the responsibility of those individuals has been proven, including the responsibilities of a level that warrant arrest, absolutely."
Judicial authorities in countries that recognise universal jurisdiction for serious offences can investigate and prosecute those crimes no matter where they were committed.