UN investigator says 'credible evidence' links Saudi Crown Prince to death of Jamal Khashoggi

Leila Molana-Allen
Jamal Khashoggi's death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul sparked ab outcry against the kingdom - AFP

There is "credible evidence" to warrant further investigation into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a damning UN report released on Wednesday. 

The 100-page document calls for an investigation into the crown prince and other high-level Saudi officials after Khashoggi was killed in Istanbul's Saudi embassy in October 2018.

The report includes a forensic analysis of the evidence made available to UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard. 

It recounts gruesome details from audio recordings of Saudi agents discussing how to dismember Khashoggi’s body, to separate joints and to cut through skin, calling him “the sacrificial animal”. 

The journalist’s last words: “How could this happen in an embassy?... Are you going to give me drugs?” are followed by several moments of silence punctuated only by heavy breathing and the rustle of plastic. 

The Turkish Intelligence Services suspect that during this period Khashoggi was drugged and suffocated with a plastic bag before being dismembered. Ms Callamard also calls for the ongoing trial of 11 Saudis to be suspended, saying the secretive conditions of the trial do not meet international standards and as such any verdict will amount to “a miscarriage of justice.” 

The report names all 15 Saudi agents who travelled to Istanbul, but cannot identify which if any are on trial as the Saudi authorities refuse to name the defendants. 

It adds that Turkey, as a country that “routinely imprisons journalists”, cannot be trusted to carry out a fair investigation.

Saudi Arabia dismissed the investigation. "It is not new. The report reiterates what has already been published and circulated in the media," Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, said on Twitter.

The report also accuses UN member states of considering “only their own national and strategic interests” rather than helping to mediate and investigate following the execution, and calls on global businesses to apply financial pressure to Saudi companies rather than quietly going back to normal cooperation. It highlights refusing sales of intelligence-gathering equipment to the state until they can prove it is being used in compliance with human rights regulations.

Human rights organisations hope the report will trigger wider attention on violations in the country. 

“What the killing of Khashoggi has done is genuinely spotlight human rights in Saudi Arabia,” says Taif Al Khudary of MENA Rights Group. “This is the time to lobby Saudi Arabia and build on the calls in this report.”