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Khashoggi death: MBS won’t face charges without independent inquiry

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khashoggi mbs
A
composite image of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Associated Press/Virginia Mayo; Nicolas Asfouri –
Pool/Getty


  • The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could
    potentially lead to charges against Crown Prince Mohammed bin
    Salman under international law.
  • But experts say that would never happen without an
    independent investigation. 
  • Sherine Tadros, head of the UN office for Amnesty
    International in New York, says the UN needs to head an
    independent investigation into Khashoggi’s death.
  • But even if an independent investigation was carried out,
    experts say Saudi Arabia would work to ensure he wouldn’t face
    any consequences.

The troubling
killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
could potentially
lead to charges against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under
international law, experts say, if an independent investigation
is carried out.

But experts say Saudi Arabia would work to ensure no matter
what that he wouldn’t face any consequences.

Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post and was often
critical of the Saudi government, disappeared after entering the
Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

After weeks of denials, the Saudis acknowledged he was killed in
the consulate. The Saudis have since acknowledged that
Khashoggi’s killing was “likely” premeditated but have attempted
to distance the crown prince from the incident. 

But multiple accounts have suggested that the crown prince,
informally referred to as MBS, orchestrated the events that led
to Khashoggi’s killing. Khashoggi was reportedly killed in a
brutal fashion that involved torture, and reports indicate his
body was dismembered. 

Some believe MBS could, and should, possibly face justice in
civil and criminal courts. 

‘The acts against Mr. Khashoggi are serious violations of
international human rights law’

Stephen Rapp, the former US State Department ambassador-at-large
for war crimes issues,
recently told The Washington Post
 that the killing
amounted to “serious violations of international human rights
law, including the law to protect the individual from torture and
forced disappearance.”

International law and precedent could allow prosecutors in
several countries to bring charges against MBS, and Khashoggi’s
family could also potentially bring a case against him in civil
courts, Rapp told The Post. 

For example, the UN
Convention against Torture
, of which Saudi Arabia is a
signatory, could pave the way for charges to be brought against
MBS or other Saudi officials.

Countries that are signatories of the convention, via the
principal of universal jurisdiction, could refer a case to the
International Court of Justice, or ICJ. The court could pursue an
order for Saudi Arabia to prosecute or extradite MBS and the
other officials suspected of being involved, Rapp said. 

Rapp also said that even if MBS didn’t know about the operation,
as the Saudis have claimed, he could still be viewed as culpable
under US and international law due to what’s known as “command
responsibility,” because of his authority and responsibility over
those involved. 

But not all legal experts are convinced such scenarios are
realistic. 

‘The Saudis will never go along’

Bradley P. Moss, a Washington, DC-based lawyer specializing in
national security, said the possibilities outlined by Rapp could
be done “in theory.”

“Realistically speaking, however, virtually none of these options
will be likely to come to fruition absent significant pressure
from the US (and President Trump in particular),” Moss told
Business Insider.

Moss said there’s no reason to believe the Saudis would allow MBS
to be extradited to face justice on the international level or in
Turkey, where the killing occurred. 


Donald Trump
President
Donald Trump has defended Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman amid allegations his government had Washington Post
reporter Jamal Khashoggi killed.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

“The ability to prosecute someone of MBS’ level of seniority and
authority is contingent on the approval of that person’s country,
and the Saudis will never go along with that idea voluntarily,”
Moss added. 

But Moss did say that if global arrest warrants are
issued for MBS, he could be “largely confined to Saudi Arabia for
many years for fear of extradition.” 

“It may be that MBS personally faces sanctions of some kind by
the United States and other countries, and that Saudi Arabia as a
country faces some political and financial pressure for a few
years,” Moss said. “That is likely to be the extent of what
occurs though.”

‘The first step of course is an actual credible investigation’

Sherine Tadros, head of the UN office for Amnesty International
in New York, says the UN needs to head an independent
investigation into Khashoggi’s death before discussing potential
charges against MBS or other Saudi officials. 

There are two current investigations into Khashoggi’s killing:
one by the Turkish government and the other by the Saudi
government. Neither have been particularly transparent, and many
of the reports surrounding Khashoggi’s death have been based on
leaks from Turkish officials.

“What we have are two so-called investigations,” Tadros told
Business Insider.

“The Saudis keep changing their mind,” Tadros said. “They don’t
even know where the body is, yet they are sure that nothing is
linked to the crown prince.”

Tadros said if it turns out MBS was involved in Khashoggi’s
death, then Amnesty would love to see “justice go all the way to
the top.”

“But the first step of course is an actual credible
investigation,” Tadros said, adding that the Turkish
investigation has been “highly politicized” and the way in which
they’ve leaked information is “highly suspect.”

Tadros said the “best shot we have” at true justice is a “UN
investigation that will be transparent, not politicized, and
credible.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was
“deeply troubled”
after Riyadh confirmed Khashoggi was
killed in the consulate, and called for a “prompt, thorough,
transparent” probe into the incident. 

‘There’s a war on freedom of expression, and freedom of speech,
and credible journalism’

Tadros said the most “realistic” way for such an investigation
to occur is for Turkey to write a letter to Guterres formally
requesting a probe. 

But Tadros also said both Turkey
and Saudi Arabia have reasons to be against a full and
independent investigation. 

“At the end of the day the Saudis
have clearly had a very destructive hand in the events that
went on inside of that consulate,” Tadros said. “They don’t
want to see a real investigation happen.”

She also said Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s troubling record on press freedom might
make him reluctant to set a precedent in which the UN
investigates crimes against journalists on Turkish soil. But
Turkey this week


said it would cooperate

if
the UN and other international bodies call for an independent
probe. 

Khashoggi’s killing has “garnered
so much incredible attention,” Tadros said, that she’s deeply
concerned about the message sent “to dictators and leaders
who attack journalists on a day by day basis if nothing
happens.”

“There’s a war on freedom of
expression, and freedom of speech, and credible journalism, and
I think we are losing that war,” Tadros said. 

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