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UN investigator recounts 'brazen' Saudi threat against her life

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)
Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (Photo by Reuters)

The outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions has denounced death threats issued by senior Saudi official Awwad al-Awwad against herself as brazen.

Agnes Callamard led the global body's investigation into the October 2018 brutal killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

“The Saudi Arabia threat against me was brazen. It took place in a high-level diplomatic setting and it was made public, confirmed by the UN,” she wrote in a series of posts published on her Twitter page on Friday.

Callamard will be joining the human rights group Amnesty International as secretary-general this month.

She noted that far greater daily intimidation and violence trail all those, who are on the front lines of defending human rights.

“Bully boy tactics should not find shelter anywhere. They do not belong at the UN, but regrettably, often find accommodation there,” Callamard added.

She said it is the duty of diplomats, UN staff as well as UN Human Rights experts to serve without fear or favor, calling upon the international community and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to affirm such an import issue.

“States must understand that behaving as thugs in New York and Geneva is no more acceptable there than in other countries' capitals, or in their own home towns. Such a demand is essential as we are confronting a world of heightened tensions reminiscent of the Cold War era,” Callamard added.

On Wednesday, UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville confirmed the accuracy of remarks by Callamard that a senior Saudi official had threatened her to death.

Colville added that the UN human rights office had informed the French national about the threat in addition to briefing UN security and authorities.

In an interview with the British newspaper Guardian on Tuesday, Callamard said a UN colleague alerted her in January 2020 that a Saudi official twice threatened in a meeting with other senior UN officials in Geneva to have her “taken care of”.

Awwad, who is the head of Saudi Arabia’s so-called Human Rights Commission and formerly served as an aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Thursday rejected the claims that he had threatened Callamard.

Callamard’s 100-page report, published in June 2019, concluded that there was “credible evidence” that 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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