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On January 26, 2019, Agnes Callamard, the Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, presented her report on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi before the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session.
The rapporteur confirmed before the Council that her investigation found credible evidence calling for further investigation into the culpability of senior officials, including Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, for the crime. She called on the United Nations to play a stronger role in addressing killings targeting journalists, human rights advocates, and opposition members.
Noting inconsistencies in the statements of the Saudi public prosecutor, the rapporteur believes that the trials announced by the government do not rise to the level of fair trials, and she recommended that Saudi Arabia release those unjustly detained, especially human rights advocates and civil society activists.
During the presentation of her report, the countries participating in the interactive dialogue with the rapporteur condemned the Saudi government’s involvement in the killing of Khashoggi and demanded immediate action. The Belgian delegate, Mr. Karl Dhaene noted the global growth in the targeting of journalists, confirming his country’s condemnation of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and demanding that Saudi Arabia undertake a fair, full, and transparent investigation. In addition, Dhaene doubted that a trial behind closed doors would meet international standards for fair trials and emphasized the importance of releasing all available information, including the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains.
For her part, the Council’s Irish delegate, Mrs. Lorna Muddiman, affirmed her country’s strong and clear support for freedom of expression and the press, expressing her concern that critics and journalists are under great threat in Saudi Arabia and calling for full cooperation and accountability in the death of Khashoggi.
Canadian delegate Mrs. Rosemary McCarney considered the killing of Khashoggi an attack on freedom of opinion, expression, and the press. She emphasized that Saudi Arabia’s actions are insufficient, especially given the lack of an accountability mechanism in the complex Saudi environment, and highlighted the importance of a larger role for the UN and the international community in this case.
German delegate Mr. Ralf Schröer condemned in the strongest terms the killing of Khashoggi and welcomed the report, which he described as comprehensive. He called on Saudi Arabia to cooperate with the investigation, saying that nothing could justify the killing, and he demanded Saudi protection of journalists and respect for the right to freedom of expression and the press. Schröer also called on Saudi Arabia to carry out an adequate criminal investigation to hold accountable those responsible for the crime.
Italian delegate Gian Lorenzo Cornado demanded an effective and full investigation into the killing of Khashoggi, saying that there must be an investigation into all acts of violence against journalists and critics and emphasizing the importance of announcing the findings without delay. Meanwhile, Australian delegate Mrs. Sally Mansfield noted that truth and accountability in the Khashoggi case must be released to the international community and Khashoggi’s family.
Mr. Valentin Zellweger, the Swiss delegate, said that the Callamard report highlighted the dangerous threats faced by journalists, and he underscored the importance of guaranteeing freedom of opinion and expression and the right to life. He also called on Saudi Arabia to release all political prisoners.
Furthermore, Norway’s UN delegate, Mrs. Trine Heimerback, who made a statement on behalf of the Nordic countries, condemned in the strongest possible terms the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. She called for a credible, full, and speedy investigation into the case, saying that it demonstrates the danger of being a journalist or human rights advocate. Heimerbak also demanded that Saudi Arabia cooperate with all investigations because the investigations that were carried out failed to meet international standards.
The EU’s delegate, Mr. Walter Stevens, emphasized the importance of developing official and unofficial mechanisms to protect journalists and critics, and he also called for the accountability of all those responsible for the killing of Khashoggi.
The ESOHR welcomes the international stances before the Council on the brutal crime against Khashoggi and the Saudi government’s practices against human rights activists and advocates. The ESOHR believes that the result of these stances must be a clear accountability mechanism that prevents the repetition of such a crime and a cessation of the Saudi government’s ongoing and escalating violations.