Reporters Without Borders files charges against Saudi Arabia over Jamal Khashoggi murder

International press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has filed a “historic” complaint with German prosecutors against Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and other Saudi officials that it claims are responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the persecution of many others.

The organisation says these are crimes against humanity and evidence of the “widespread and systematic nature of the persecution of journalists and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Alongside the Crown Prince, the four other suspects include his advisor Saud Al-Qahtani and three other high ranking officials.

In the complaint is the matter of the arbitrary detention of at least 33 journalists for “criticising the country’s rulers”. RSF published their portraits and said they are victims of an “opaque and arbitrary judicial system because of what they said in an article, a TV interview, a blog post, or even a single tweet”.

One of those imprisoned, Turki Al-Jasser is believed to have died under torture. Another, Ali Al-Omari is facing the death penalty.

The international organisation filed the criminal complaint on 1 March and detailed an extensive list of “crimes against humanity” in a document totalling some 500 pages. The document includes instances of murder and detention as well as torture, sexual violence, and coercion, enforced disappearance, persecution, and unlawful deprivation of physical liberty.

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RSF noted that crimes against humanity are a “widespread and systematic attack committed by individuals in full knowledge of this attack against a civilian population.” In Saudi Arabia, journalists who are members of the civil population are victims of systematic and widespread attacks designed to punish and silence them for political reasons.

“Those responsible for the persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, must be held accountable for their crimes,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

He added: “While these serious crimes against journalists continue unabated, we call on the German prosecutor to take a stand and open an investigation into the crimes we have revealed. No one should be above international law, especially when crimes against humanity are at stake. The urgent need for justice is long overdue”.

The legal action comes following the declassification of a report from US Intelligence Agencies that found that Khashoggi was murdered by a “hit squad” operating on orders from MBS.

The document, published on Friday, reconfirms what the UN and Agnes Callamard reported in 2019 – that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler played a significant role in his murder.

Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post and a vocal critic of MBS was assassinated and dismembered after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.

Callamard, in her role as the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings released a statement after the RSF press conference.

She explained that the implications of his assassination go far beyond the authority of a Saudi courtroom and the issue of systemic problems highlighted by his murder and the impunity from the Saudi’s must be addressed.

Callamard added that applying the principle of universal jurisdiction for this crime and claiming “universal justice for the journalists of Saudi Arabia” offers the best protection and prevention to journalists not just in Saudi, but around the world.

“Jamal Khashoggi dared to dream; to dream of dignity for his people, his country, and his region,” she wrote.

“These dreams are alive. And supporting those who dare dream, face up to the corruption and the blunt force, offering protection, speaking up when they are at risk and arrested, standing up to the bullies wherever they are, filing complaints, breaking new legal grounds. This too is justice delivered.”

                           
                               
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