Khashoggi Murder Keeps Unfolding, UN Team Wraps up Investigation
The UN wrapped up a preliminary investigation into the Khashoggi murder despite frustration over lack of access.
A U.N.-led team, headed by French diplomat Agnes Callamard, sent to Turkey to investigate the killing of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi just wrapped up its one-week investigation.
The investigation team was granted access to the alleged Khashoggi assassination audio which is believed to be a recording of several figures entering the consulate and killing the outspoken critic of the Saudi’s royal family. However, Callamard expressed frustration over being given inadequate information from Turkish ministers, intelligence chiefs and prosecutors in Istanbul.
Callamard was able to talk with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and the journalist’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. Callamard also met with Yasin Aktay, an adviser for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who remains convinced that Saudi’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is behind the murder, a claim Saudi Arabia repeatedly denies.
“The U.N. team considers the crown prince of Saudi Arabia the main person responsible for the killing of Khashoggi. The team held a number of meetings in Turkey, including with Khashoggi’s fiancé, and she (Callamard) also intends to listen to the audio recordings related to the crime,” Aktay told Turkish NTV broadcast.
The French diplomat was also dissatisfied with Saudi’s reluctance to give access to the consulate office in Istanbul where the journalist was allegedly murdered. The team examined the consulate surroundings but were not allowed to enter the complex. The team also could not interview some of the crucial figures in the kingdom state, as Al Jazeera reported.
Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate office on October 2, 2018, when he entered the consulate to obtain paperwork to marry Cengiz. His body was never found and claims were made that the Washington Post columnist was dismembered.
The CIA and the Turkish intelligence body concluded that MBS was behind the murder, but Saudi snubbed the allegation, saying that Khashoggi was the victim of a rogue operation without the government’s supervision. U.S. President Donald Trump has also expressed belief that MBS is not responsible for the murder.
What is the Next Step in the Khashoggi Investigation?
The team under Callamard will review and evaluate the investigation from a human rights perspective, as the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Office said two weeks ago.
“The report will be made public a few weeks before I present it to the human rights council in Geneva, so end of May possibly,” Callamard stated.
The team of 47 people will discuss recommendations after reporting to the Geneva-based office. But whether those recommendations will be useful still depends on the willingness of the governments of the respective countries to move forward and take action.
What Action Can the UN Take?
There are three potential options for the U.N. Human Rights Body pending the final conclusion of the Callamard team’s investigation.
First, the body could choose to simply ignore any findings. Alternatively, they may use any conclusions as a reference for another more thorough investigation. Or thirdly, they could take the case to a higher level in the U.N. system, such as the Security Council or directly to the office of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Should findings be ignored and the investigation abandoned, legal proceedings can be undertaken in Finland, Australia, Spain or any other countries that have adopted jurisdiction to enable prosecutors to hold trials for crimes committed outside of their countries.
The U.N. Security Council may set up a trial or bring the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The international court has in the past launched investigations into the murders of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri and iconic Pakistani female leader Benazir Bhutto.
Erdogan Hits US for Silence Over Khashoggi Murder
Turkish President Erdogan again slammed the U.S. for its silence on the murder of Khashoggi, especially given the close alliance between Washington and Riyadh.
“I cannot understand America’s silence … we want everything to be clarified because there is an atrocity, there is a murder. The Khashoggi murder is not an ordinary one,” Erdogan told state-owned television TRT.
Erdogan said he received information that at least some of the 22 members of the Khashoggi hit may have died in “traffic accidents” possibly engineered by Saudi Arabia to cover up the murder.
“They [Saudi Arabia] say 22 people are under arrest, but according to our information, some of them may not be alive. They may have been victims of ‘traffic accidents’ because the system there is working very odd,” Erdogan stated.
Eleven suspects stood began late last December in Saudi Arabia for Kashoggi’s murder. Earlier this month, a prosecutor said he is seeking a death sentence for five of them.