The first independent report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has finally been released. Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur, has laid out in detail evidence that suggests not only did Saudi officials at the highest level plan and carry out the killing, but that they carefully planned how best to hide the murder from the international community.
Here are the report’s key findings:
Mohammed bin Salman bears responsibility and should be investigated
The report concludes that the murder was planned, organized and carried out by officials working on the behalf of the state of Saudi Arabia. Under international human rights law, that means that the responsibility ultimately falls on the ruling Saudi royal family, the de facto head of which is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The report said there is “credible evidence meriting further investigation by a proper authority” as to whether the “threshold of criminal responsibility has been met.”
Saudi officials lied to Khashoggi before killing him
After Khashoggi entered the consulate on October 2, 2018, Saudi officials told Khashoggi that Interpol had issued an order for him to be sent to Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi argued that there was no such order from Interpol. The Saudi officials instructed Khashoggi to text his son in order to make his disappearance seem less suspicious. As he refused to cooperate, officials resorted to threatening him. “Type it, Mr. Jamal. Hurry up. Help us so that we can help you because at the end we will take you back to Saudi Arabia and if you don’t help us you know what will happen at the end; let this issue find a good end.”
Khashoggi was sedated and suffocated
Shortly after the argument about texting his son, Khashoggi had suspected that something was not right. “There is a towel. Are you going to give me drugs?” The officials replied, “We will anesthetize you.” The report says that shortly after this, there were audible sounds of a clear struggle, as the Saudi officials said things like “Did he sleep, “he raises his head,” “Keep pushing. Push here, don’t remove your hand, push it.” Turkish intelligence officials believe that this could indicate Khashoggi was sedated and suffocated with a plastic bag.
The plan to dismember Khashoggi was discussed before he entered the consulate
According to recordings heard by Callamard, only minutes before Khashoggi entered the consulate, two Saudi operatives were heard discussing what appears to be the plan to dismember the body in order to hide it. One of the men asked if it would be “possible to put the trunk in a bag?” The other replied, “No. Too heavy,” before going onto say that he hoped it would be easy because the “joints will be separated.” Further graphic comments describe the plan to “take plastic bags and cut it into pieces.” This section of the report ends with one of the men asking the other if “the sacrificial animal” has arrived yet.
The killing was carried out in strict secrecy
On October 1, 2018, Saudi officials in the consulate discussed the operational details for the murder that would take place the next day. “A commission is coming from Saudi Arabia tomorrow; they have something to do in the Consulate.” They were given freedom to work undetected. According to witnesses, the Consul General ordered non-Saudi staff to not report to work on the day of the killing, or to leave at noon. Other witnesses said that they were told to remain in their offices and not leave the consulate because of the special visitors.
Plans for the killing began on September 28
Khashoggi visited the consulate on September the 28 in order to get a Saudi document confirming that he was unmarried so that he could legally marry his fiancé, Hatice Cengiz. He agreed with the consulate staff that he would return on October 2 to pick up the document.
Later that night, Mohammed Alotaibi, Saudi Arabia’s Consul General in Istanbul, made a phone call to an unknown person. He said to this person that the “head of state security called me and they have an assignment. They are asking for anyone from your delegation for a special issue.”
Just under an hour after this phone call, Aoltaibi had a conversation with consular staff. He was heard saying “Yes, there is an urgent training in Riyadh. They called me from Riyadh. They told me they asked for an official who worked on protocol. But the issue is top secret. Nobody should know at all. Even none of your friends will be informed.”
The US and Turkey probably did not have prior knowledge
A repeated claim in this case is that the US and Turkey had a duty to protect Khashoggi under international law. In light of the fact it’s clear that both parties were monitoring the Saudis’ behavior, both states have been accused of failing to protect him.
The report suggests it is unlikely either state knew at the time, but that based on their intelligence-gathering both the US and Turkey should have investigated further in the period running up to the murder.
Saudi trial should be stopped
The report says the Saudi trial should be suspended because of its failure to confirm to the international standards of such trials. Callamard cites that the identities of those on trial have yet to be released, nor the charges brought against them. The trial is also taking place behind closed doors.
UN states might be guilty of a miscarriage of justice
Callamard says that while the government of Saudi Arabia invited members of the UN Security Council to attend some of the hearing, it was conditional on their agreement not to disclose any details. The report notes that in agreeing to these conditions, the observers agreed to terms meaning that they cannot provide “credible validation” of the trial or investigation. This could amount to a miscarriage of justice, the report said.
The world should slap sanctions on MBS
In the report, Callamard suggests that the current international sanctions in place on the Saudis are insufficient, and that Mohammed bin Salman and his personal assets should be hit by targeted sanctions “until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution.”