The decision by the sons of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to “forgive” their father’s killers was just another step in Saudi Arabia’s “parody of justice”, a UN expert said Friday.
Although “shocking” the announcement “was anticipated”, said Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
The independent rights expert, who does not speak for the United Nations but who reports her findings to it, maintained that the Saudi authorities were “playing out what they hope will be the final act in their well-rehearsed parody of justice”.
And they were doing so “in front of an international community far too ready to be deceived” she said in a statement.
Khashoggi — who was close to the Saudi royals but became a critic — was killed and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, in a case that tarnished the reputation of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
His family’s pardon is expected to spare the lives of five unnamed people sentenced to death over the murder in a December court ruling, which was lambasted by human rights groups after two top aides to the crown prince were exonerated.
Callamard chastised Saudi authorities over the case, which she said played out in several acts.
“Act One was their pretence of an investigation,” she said, adding that the team Riyadh sent to help with the probe had in fact been ordered to “clean up the crime scene”.
She accused them of engaging in “obstruction of justice”.
“The mockery of an investigation laid charges only against the hitmen themselves but none against the masterminds — those who ordered the killing,” Callamard said.
Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Washington Post contributor and critic of the crown prince, was strangled and his body cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi squad inside the consulate, according to Turkish officials. His remains have not been found.
Riyadh has described the murder as a “rogue” operation, but both the CIA and Callamard have directly linked Crown Prince Mohammed to the killing — a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.
In Friday’s statement, Callamard also slammed the “pretence of a trial”, and especially that UN Security Council members had agreed to send observers sworn to secrecy.
They had thus “allowed themselves to be cast as bit players: gullible and willing hostages to the sham, legitimising by their presence something that should have been rejected out of hand and denounced for its secrecy and violations of fair trial standards,” she said.
And she criticised the verdict issued last December in which five people were sentenced to death, but where top advisors to the crown prince walked due to “insufficient evidence”.
And act four, she said, was the announcement by Khashoggi’s sons, which is expected to result in the release of those convicted, “underscoring that December’s verdicts were the antithesis of justice and instead of purchase of absolute impunity”.
But Callamard insisted that “this Saudi parody is not the final play for justice for Jamal”.
She urged the international community to seek “other pathways” to justice, including calling on Turkey and the United States, where Khashoggi was a resident, to bring his case to trial.