Reporters Without Borders has filed a criminal complaint in Germany accusing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other Saudi officials of committing crimes against humanity in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and the detention of 34 other journalists.
The Paris-based media advocacy group said in a statement that it had filed the complaint with a federal court in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Monday and was requesting that prosecutors open a formal investigation. The court confirmed to CNN Business that it had received the complaint.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the complaint accuses the crown prince and four other Saudi officials of having “organizational or executive responsibility” for the killing of Khashoggi, as well as involvement in “developing a state policy to attack and silence journalists.”
Saudi officials did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment on the Reporters Without Borders complaint.
Khashoggi, a US resident and columnist for the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Last week, the United States released an intelligence report concluding that bin Salman approved the operation to capture or kill the Saudi journalist.
Saudi Arabia rejected the allegations. The Saudi Foreign Ministry released a statement following the report’s publication saying the country “completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.”
The crown prince has denied that he ordered Khashoggi’s murder but has said that he bears responsibility.
“This was a heinous crime,” he said in an interview with CBS in 2019. “But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.”
The murder of Khashoggi and the detentions “reveal a system that threatens the life and liberty of any journalist in Saudi Arabia — in particular those who speak out publicly against the Saudi government,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement. Saudi Arabia is ranked 170 out of 180 countries in the group’s World Press Freedom Index.
“Those responsible for the persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, must be held accountable for their crimes,” Reporters Without Borders secretary general Christophe Deloire said in the statement. “While these serious crimes against journalists continue unabated, we call on the German prosecutor to take a stand and open an investigation into the crimes we have revealed.”
Reporters Without Borders said that Germany’s judiciary is the “best suited system” to receive its complaint because its courts have standing to investigate some international crimes and has “already shown readiness and willingness to prosecute international criminals.”
In June 2019, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, found that it was “inconceivable” the Saudi royal heir wasn’t aware of the operation. In September 2020, a Saudi court sentenced eight suspects to prison, a sentence Callamard called a “parody of justice.”
Last week, Callamard called on the United States to fully declassify its findings on Khashoggi’s “brutal extrajudicial execution,” and said that since his remains have yet to be located, the international crime of enforced disappearance continues.
“His loved ones continue to be subjected to further suffering until Saudi Arabia discloses what was done with his remains,” she said.
— Will Godley, Sarah El Sirgany and Nic Robertson contributed reporting.