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March 29, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:35am

UN investigator calls on Saudi regime to hold Khashoggi murder trials in public

By James Walker

A United Nations human rights expert leading an investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has pushed for the trials of his alleged killers to be held in public.

The Saudi regime has put 11 unnamed suspects on trial for the murder of the Washington Post columnist on 2 October last year.

Five of those standing trial for the killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul are facing the death penalty, according to the UN.

As well as the identities of those on trial not being disclosed, their roles within the Saudi government and the details of the charges against them have also been kept secret.

UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard warned the Saudi regime it was “grievously mistaken” if it believed that trials held behind closed doors would “satisfy the international community”.

“The murder of Mr. Khashoggi was the result of an extrajudicial killing committed in a consulate office on foreign territory,” she said in a statement.

“Contrary to Saudi Arabia assertions, these are not internal, domestic matters. The rights of the victim and his family are at stake, but so too are the rights of other states under international treaties and law.

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“The investigation and subsequent prosecution should comply with international legal standards and that demands the highest levels of transparency and impartiality.”

Callamard, who is also the global freedom of expression director at Columbia University, pushed the regime to take five steps toward opening up the trial and meeting international standards.

These were: naming the charged men, holding the trial in public, inviting international experts to monitor the trial, publicising the fates of those arrested, and sharing what efforts it has made to find Khashoggi’s remains.

She said the Saudi government has invited representatives of the UN’s Permanent Members of the Security Council to some of the hearings but warned they “they risk being participants in a potential miscarriage of justice” and “possibly complicit” if the trials are blighted by human rights law violations.

“They should review their cooperation and insist that the proceedings be made fully open to the public and expert international observers,” Callamard said.

The UN’s strong stance on the Saudi regime’s actions comes two weeks after the US State Department did not link Khashoggi’s death to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in a human rights report despite an earlier assessment by the US Central Intelligence Agency that he had ordered the journalist’s assassination.

The US report was published after the New York Times reported Bin Salman had told an aide he would come for the Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime, “with a bullet”.

Speaking at a press briefing, Ambassador Michael Kozak said the US believed Khashoggi’s killers “should be held to account” but added that the State Department wanted its report to be “fact-driven rather than opinion-driven”.

Picture: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali/File

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