The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and there is evidence that would justify further investigation into the direct role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (often called MBS), according to Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Callamard, who on Wednesday issued a 101-page report after a thorough, five-month investigation, wrote that the dissident journalist’s murder “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible” adding that “there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s.”
It’s long been clear the kingdom won’t hold the crown prince accountable. The ongoing trial of 11 suspects in the case (which Callamard said should be suspended) “fails to meet procedural and substantive standards” in a process the report calls “timid steps” that “stop short of what is required under international law.”
Indeed, it’s key that Callamard called for an international response for a slaying her report says “constitutes an international crime over which States should claim universal jurisdiction.”
The United States should champion this call — and the U.N. report — especially since it involves the kidnapping, killing and dismemberment of a man who at the time was a U.S. resident.
But the Trump administration has done the opposite: doubling down on its cynical commitment to the reckless, possibly homicidal crown prince, whose government repeatedly lied to U.S. lawmakers about what happened to Khashoggi.
President Donald Trump himself has led this presidential protection racket with his pathetic equivocation on the crown prince’s culpability. “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t,” Trump said of MBS’ involvement in the murder even after the CIA reportedly concluded with “high confidence” that the crown prince was involved.
Congress, in a unanimous Senate vote holding MBS accountable for the killing and a House and Senate vote to curtail U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen, showed rare and welcome bipartisanship and backbone on this matter. But the administration invoked emergency powers to sell arms to the kingdom (as well as to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan) anyway.
If there’s an emergency, it’s the immorality of Trump’s support of the U.S.-Saudi status quo. The kingdom will soon be in the hands of a man whose hands are likely covered in the blood of a U.S. resident — and the U.S. president has sought only to deepen the commitment.
Fortunately, a bipartisan Senate coalition will reportedly attempt to force up to 22 votes to block the arms sales. “While I understand that Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of Mohammed bin Salman cannot be ignored,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement. Graham, usually a staunch Trump ally, added that “now is not the time to do business as usual with Saudi Arabia.”
Graham’s right. It’s time to send a message to the kingdom — and the White House — that impunity for Khashoggi’s murder must not stand.