Twenty Saudi nationals believed to have been involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are among the first people to be sanctioned by the UK’s new human rights regime.
The Foreign Office said media freedom was among its human rights priorities for the new regime under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020.
It will give “particular attention” to killings, violence and other abuses carried out against people who seek to obtain, exercise, defend or promote human rights, such as journalists, media workers and whistleblowers.
“The safety of these individuals is our priority, and we will take particular care in cases where a designation might result in any reprisals or physical or mental harm to such persons,” the Foreign Office said in its guidance on who will be targeted by the new sanctions regime.
It marks the first time the UK has targeted individual people or organisations for human rights violations and sanctions while working alone. Sanctions include travel bans into the UK and asset freezes.
Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Turkey on 2 October 2018 and his body has never been found.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman last year took “full responsibility” for the murder as it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government, but said he had “absolutely” not given the order.
Among the 20 men given a travel ban and asset freeze by the UK Government today are Saud Al Qahtani, who was the Crown Prince’s advisor in the royal court. The Foreign Office said he was a “senior official who planned and directed the killing using a 15-man team”.
Mohammad Al-Otaibi, the Saudi Consul General in Istanbul at the time, has also been sanctioned. The Government said he was involved in “facilitating the killing [of Khashoggi] and in the concealment of evidence”.
Most of the group were intelligence officers or military men, including Ahmad Hassan Mohammed Al Asiri who was deputy head of the Saudi Intelligence service and, the Foreign Office said, was involved in commissioning the hit squad.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured) said Khashoggi’s murder and the other human rights abuses condemned today were some of the worst in recent memory.
“This is a demonstration of global Britain’s commitment to acting as a force for good in the world,” he said.
Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt made media freedom one of the Foreign Office’s priorities for 2019 but a cross-party group of MPs said the department needed to do more to “materially to punish the violators of media freedom”.
Picture: Picture: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor