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UN expert: Saudi crown prince should be investigated over Khashoggi murder

Delivering her scathing report to the UN Human Rights Council, Agnes Callamard says Riyadh has 'failed to address the chain of command'
United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard delivers her report of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 26, 2019 (AFP)

A United Nation human rights expert said on Wednesday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be investigated over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October in Istanbul.

Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, released a scathing 100-page report on the Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist's assassination last week. On Wednesday she presented her findings to the UN Human Rights Council.

Based on more than 120 interviews, Callamard’s probe concluded that there was credible evidence that the killing was premeditated and that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and other high-level officials were liable.

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The UN expert told the Human Rights Council that the official investigation carried out by Saudi authorities “failed to address the chain of command” related to the crime.

She said the killing was “a premeditated murder” that constituted “an international crime”.

Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi operatives inside their consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

The murder, and its botched cover-up, has brought international scorn on Riyadh, and the CIA has concluded that Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto leader, almost certainly signed off on the operation.

Addressing the Human Rights Council, Callamard said: "It is not only a question of who ordered the killing."

"Criminal responsibility can be derived from direct and indirect incitement, or the failure to prevent and protect," she added.

The investigator said the Saudi authorities have not responded to her requests to visit the country to pursue her inquiry. 

She accused the Saudi state of responsibility for "an extrajudicial execution, an enforced disappearance and possibly an act of torture".

Callamard added that the killing of Khashoggi at his country's consulate in Istanbul should not be dealt with as a domestic Saudi matter. 

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"The rights of Turkey, the US and of every country protected by the international system of diplomacy were also violated," she said. 

On Tuesday, Callamard criticised UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other United Nations institutions over their lack of a proactive response in the aftermath of the journalist's killing.

Speaking to Middle East Eye in Geneva, she said the UN could have acted as a mediator between the parties involved, but that Guterres “has hidden behind protocol” rather than push for a serious investigation.

British Prime Minister Theresa May urged Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to investigate the Khashoggi murder in accordance with international law.

"We do want to see accountability for this horrific murder... We expect Saudi Arabia to take the action necessary to ensure such violations of international and national laws can't happen again," May said in parliament.