The Paris-based press group Reporters without Borders has filed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and four other senior Saudi officials in Germany over the brutal killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other crimes against humanity.
The group, known by its French initials RSF, submitted the 500-page complaint to the Federal Court of Justice in the German city of Karlsruhe on Monday.
It said on its website that the complaint revealed the “widespread and systematic” nature of the persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia and “addresses 35 cases of journalists: slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and 34 journalists who have been jailed in Saudi Arabia” in particular.
“These journalists are the victims of unlawful killing, torture, sexual violence and coercion and forced disappearance,” said Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters without Borders, at a news conference on Tuesday.
The group has chosen to file its complaint in Germany as the European country’s laws give its courts jurisdiction over international crimes committed abroad, even without a German connection.
“The official opening of a criminal investigation in Germany into the crimes against humanity in Saudi Arabia would be a world first,” RSF Germany director Christian Mihr said on Monday. “We ask the public prosecutor general to open a situation analysis, with a view to formally launching a prosecutorial investigation and issuing arrest warrants.”
The “suspects” who were identified in the complaint are the crown prince, his close adviser Saud al-Qahtani, Ahmad Asiri, Mohammad al-Otaibi, the consul general in Istanbul at the time of the assassination, and Maher Mutreb, an intelligence officer who is accused of leading the torture of Khashoggi.
The complaint came just days after the administration of US President Joe Biden declassified an intelligence report that assessed that “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic, was killed and his body was dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. He had entered the premises to collect documents for his planned marriage with his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.
A 15-member hit squad dispatched by Mohammed presided over the torture and murder of Khashoggi inside the consulate.
The Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a columnist, had already reported in November that same year that the CIA had concluded Mohammed had personally ordered the murder.
The Biden administration imposed sanctions on several Saudi individuals involved in the murder but refused to punish the crown prince, who Washington itself said had ordered the murder.
That refusal has sparked wide criticism.