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UN: Saudi Khashoggi investigation falls short of intl. standards

In this photo taken on October 25, 2018, a member of the Sri Lankan web journalist association holds a poster with the image of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration outside the Saudi Embassy in Colombo. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, says Saudi Arabia’s so-called investigation into the murder of prominent dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi falls short of international standards.

In November, the kingdom’s Public Prosecutor indicted 11 unnamed suspects for the killing, which is believed to have been ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Khashoggi, a US-based Washington Post columnist, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 last year. He never came out.

On Thursday, Callamard, who is leading an international inquiry into the murder, called on the kingdom to reveal the defendants' names and charges and the fate of 10 others initially arrested, denouncing what she called the lack of transparency of the kingdom’s investigation and legal proceedings.

"The Government of Saudi Arabia is grievously mistaken if it believes that these proceedings, as currently constituted, will satisfy the international community, either in terms of procedural fairness under international standards or in terms of the validity of their conclusions,” she said in a statement.

“The current proceedings contravene international human rights law according to which the right to a fair trial involves the right to a public hearing,” she added.

Senior Saudi officials were “criminally responsible” if they failed to investigate and prosecute those responsible for killing the Washington Post columnist, Callamard noted.

In early January, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it could not assess the fairness of a trial underway in Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s murder.

In response to a question about the Saudi prosecutor's demand for the suspects' death penalty, the OHCHR Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the office calls for an independent investigation “with international involvement."

Last month, the UN-led probe concluded that Khashoggi had been the victim of a “brutal and premeditated killing” planned and perpetrated by the kingdom's officials.”

Callamard said at that time that Saudi officials had "seriously undermined" and delayed Turkey's efforts to investigate the crime scene at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October last year.

The UN official noted that they had access only to a part of "chilling and gruesome audio material" of the dissident journalist's death, obtained by the Turkish intelligence agency.

Also in February, Turkish presidential adviser Yasin Aktay told the Turkish NTV broadcaster that “the UN team considers the crown prince of Saudi Arabia the main person responsible for the killing of Khashoggi."

Riyadh, however, has spurned all the allegations linking the killing to bin Salman and instead claimed that the murder has been carried out by a “rogue” group.

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