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Senior Saudi official made death threats to UN investigator over Khashoggi murder probe: Callamard

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Agnès Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, (L) is seen with Hatice Cengiz, the Turkish fiancée of murdered Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on December 3, 2019. (Photo by Anadolu news agency)

A high-ranking Saudi Arabian official has reportedly issued death threats against outgoing United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, after she published damning findings into the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Agnès Callamard, a French human rights specialist who will this month take on her new post as secretary general of Amnesty International, told British newspaper the Guardian in an interview that a UN colleague warned her in January 2020 that a senior Saudi official had twice issued threats against her in a meeting with other top UN officials in Geneva that month.

At the “high-level” meeting, the visiting senior Saudi official purportedly said they could have Callamard “taken care of” if the UN did not rein her in.

The independent UN investigator noted that Saudi officials criticized her work on Khashoggi’s murder, expressing their outrage over her investigation and her conclusions during the meeting between Geneva-based Saudi diplomats, visiting Saudi officials and UN officials in Geneva. 

The Saudi officials also made unfounded claims that she had received money from Qatar.

When UN officials expressed alarm, other Saudis who were present sought to reassure them that the comment ought not to be taken seriously.

The Saudi group then left the room, but the visiting senior Saudi official stayed behind, and repeated the threat to the remaining UN officials in the room.

Specifically, the Saudi official said he knew people who had offered to “take care of the issue if you don’t.”

“It was reported to me at the time and it was one occasion where the United Nations was actually very strong on that issue. People that were present, and also subsequently, made it clear to the Saudi delegation that this was absolutely inappropriate and that there was an expectation that this should not go further,” Callamard said.

“You know, those threats don’t work on me. Well, I don’t want to call for more threats. But I have to do what I have to do. It didn’t stop me from acting in a way which I think is the right thing to do,” she pointed out.

Callamard’s 100-page report, published in June 2019, concluded that there was “credible evidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials were behind Khashoggi’s assassination, and called the murder an “international crime.”

Khashoggi was murdered on October 2, 2018, after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document stating that he was divorced, so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

Recording and other evidence gathered by Turkish authorities revealed how a team of Saudi agents subdued, killed and then dismembered the journalist inside the diplomatic mission.

Saudi Arabia initially issued conflicting stories about Khashoggi’s disappearance, but eventually said that he was killed in a “rogue” operation.

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