Experts slam Saudi execution of five men for Khashoggi’s murder

The decision to execute five men by Saudi Arabia in connection with the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been condemned by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions Agnes Callamard who described them as a “travesty”.

Callamard said the “travesty of investigation, prosecution and justice continues” with the judgment handed down on Monday giving the death penalty to five men and jailing three in connection with Khashoggi’s death. She made a comparison to the ongoing trial for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post opinion writer, was tortured and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul just over one year ago in a brutal murder that US intelligence services believe was executed by a team of Saudi operatives on orders by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

His death – and the lack of action taken by the Saudi authorities over it – was condemned by international organisations worldwide. One year after his murder, the Saudi Crown Prince said he bore “full responsibility” for the killing while denying ordering it.

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said the Saudi government’s action could not be considered justice as the truth was silenced with the death of the men. “We still expect a full accounting”.

This was echoed by Callamard, who had drawn up a report earlier this year into his death and found credible evidence calling for further investigation into the involvement of the Saudi crown prince and top government officials.

In a series of tweets, Callamard pointed out yesterday that the death penalty for the five men was “anything but justice” because the hearings “were held behind closed doors even though none of the justification for holding a trial in camera under international law applied to this particular trial”.

Under human rights law, Khashoggi’s death was an “extrajudicial execution” for which the State of Saudi Arabia was responsible. “But at no point did the trial consider the responsibilities of the State,” she said.

“Also, the investigation had to look into the chain of command to identify the masterminds, as well as those who incited, allowed or turned a blind eye to the murder, such as the Crown Prince. This was not investigated,” Callamard added.

The defendants had repeatedly stated they were obeying orders and the fact that there was a forensic doctor in the hit team was indicative that it was a premeditated murder.

“Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of justice. It is a mockery,” she said.

Impunity for the killing of a journalist commonly “reveals political repression, corruption, abuse of power, propaganda, and even international complicity,” Callamard said while pointing out that these were all present in the killing of Khashoggi.


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