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The UN assigns a special rapporteur to Khashoggi case

  • 25 Jan 2019

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to restore its image in light of the Khashoggi killing has been dealt a blow after the UN decided to appoint an expert to investigate the murder of the Washington Post journalist.

Saudi Arabia admitted the Riyadh critic was killed at its consulate in Istanbul. Earlier, Riyadh had denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's fate, saying he left the building alive, a claim Turkey refuted from the outset. ( Getty Images )

Agnes Callamard, United Nations special rapporteur, will make a visit to Turkey next week as part of her recently announced mandate to investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Callamard on Thursday said, “I will be heading an independent international inquiry into the killing of Saudi journalist Mr Jamal Khashoggi ..." from January 28 to February 3.

Her findings and recommendations will be reported to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019. The report will focus on the extent to which the Saudi state was responsible for the killing.

Her visit to Turkey marks the first official UN involvement in the case of Khashoggi, a well-known columnist at the Washington Post, killed and dismembered by Saudi agents at the Istanbul consulate on October 2 last year.

Earlier this week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was time for an international investigation, citing Turkish President Erdogan’s call for an international probe looking into the case.

Saudi Arabia attended this year's World Economic Forum in Davos in force in a bid to normalise its deteriorated relations, over the Khashoggi killing, with Western business.

The chief executive of the French oil company Total and the US investment bank Morgan Stanley met with Saudi ministers in a panel at Davos, Switzerland. 

Both chief executives signaled their willingness to restore relations with the oil-rich kingdom. However, the UN expert visiting Turkey does not bode well for Saudi authorities seeking to repair their broken international image.

Saudi Arabia's lack of transparency

President Erdogan said before that the order for Khashoggi's killing came from the highest level of the Saudi government but probably not King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on Salman's heir and the de facto ruler, MBS.

However, Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh later said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed. 

On December 5, 2018, A Turkish court issued arrest warrants for two former Saudi officials for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Saudi Arabia has arrested several individuals connected to the killing, however, it’s refusing to extradite them to Turkey for trial.

"We don't extradite our citizens," Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel al Jubeir, said after the Turkish demand.

Riyadh’s reluctance to be transparent in sharing information with Ankara has raised suspicion of a cover-up.

Erdogan also said, "The Saudi prosecutor did not share any information or evidence with his Istanbul counterpart about the Jamal Khashoggi case because the perpetrator is obvious," on December 2018, while addressing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation(OIC).

The US Senate and CIA on the same page on Khashoggi killing

The CIA in November briefed the White House that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

The CIA's finding, first reported by the Washington Post, is the most definitive US assessment to date tying Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler directly to the killing.

The US Senate also accepted the resolution on December 13 that holds Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed responsible for murdering Khashoggi.

“Unanimously, the United States Senate has said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is a strong statement. I think it speaks to the values that we hold dear,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and sponsor of the resolution.

The UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman called for an independent investigation with international involvement in early January.

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