INTERNATIONAL NEWS - There is "credible evidence" linking Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a UN expert said Wednesday, calling for sanctions on the prince's personal foreign assets.
The allegation regarding Prince Mohammed's possible direct role in Kashoggi's execution last October was detailed in a new report by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard.
Callamard, an independent human rights expert who does not speak for the United Nations, also called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to initiate a formal criminal investigation into the case.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of Prince Mohammed, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Riyadh initially said it had no knowledge of his fate. It later blamed the murder inside the consulate on rogue agents.
Saudi prosecutors have absolved the crown prince of responsibility.
But Callamard said her inquiry had "determined that there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince's".
The UN expert noted that international sanctions issued so far in response to Khashoggi's killing "simply fail to address the central questions of chain of command and of senior leadership’s responsibilities for and associated with the execution".
Given "the credible evidence into the responsibilities of the Crown Prince for his murder, such sanctions ought also to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets abroad, until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution," she added.
No finding on 'guilt'
Callmard carried out her human rights inquiry on her own initiative as part of her mandate as a special rapporteur.
She stressed that "no conclusion is made as to guilt," within her findings that were based on a large body of evidence, including CCTV footage from inside the consulate of the killing itself.
"The only conclusion made is that there is credible evidence meriting further investigation, by a proper authority, as to whether the threshold of criminal responsibility has been met," she said.
She added that she had found evidence that "Khashoggi was himself fully aware of the powers held by the Crown Prince, and fearful of him."
In the report she said she found that the probes conducted so far by Saudi Arabia and Turkey had "failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths".
The report specifically came across evidence that the crime scenes were "thoroughly, even forensically, cleaned".
That indicates "that the Saudi investigation was not conducted in good faith, and that it may amount to obstructing justice," the report said.
It was therefore important that Guterres launch an official international criminal investigation into the case that would make it possible to "build-up strong files on each of the alleged perpetrators and identify mechanisms for formal accountability, such as an ad hoc or hybrid tribunal," Callamard said.
She also called on the FBI in the United States, where Khashoggi was a resident, to open an investigation into the case, if it has not already done so, "and pursue criminal prosecutions within the United States, as appropriate".
The report identified by name the 15 people she said were part of the mission to kill Khashoggi, and suggested that many of them were not on the list of 11 unnamed suspects facing a closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia over the murder.
"In view of my concerns regarding the fairness of the trial of the 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia, I call for the suspension of the trial," she said in the report.