Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Picture: BANDAR ALGALOUD/COURTESY OF SAUDI ROYAL COURT/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Picture: BANDAR ALGALOUD/COURTESY OF SAUDI ROYAL COURT/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

Riyadh — A Saudi minister on Wednesday slammed as “unfounded” a UN expert report calling for those involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to be held accountable.

“It is not new. The [UN] report reiterates what has already been published and circulated in the media,” Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, said on Twitter. “The report ... contains clear contradictions and unfounded allegations, casting doubt on its credibility.”

The report by Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said there was “credible evidence” linking Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Khashoggi’s murder inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul last October.

Callamard said it was clear “the execution of Mr Khashoggi was the responsibility of the state of Saudi Arabia”, while calling on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to initiate a formal international criminal investigation into the case.

Saudi prosecutors have absolved the crown prince of responsibility.

Al-Jubeir reiterated that the kingdom’s “competent” judicial authorities were holding trials of several people arrested over the killing.

Last November, the kingdom’s public prosecutor indicted 11 unnamed suspects, including five who could face the death penalty over the murder.

Diplomats from the UN Security Council’s permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the US — as well as Turkey and Saudi human rights organisations are allowed to attend the legal proceedings, Al-Jubeir said.

The proceedings are held entirely in Arabic, diplomatic sources have told AFP. The diplomats are not allowed to bring interpreters and are usually summoned at short notice, the sources added.

Callamard, an independent human rights expert who does not speak for the UN, said probes by Saudi Arabia and Turkey “failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths”.

Her report specifically came across evidence that the crime scenes were “thoroughly, even forensically, cleaned” by the Saudis, in what “may amount to obstructing justice”.

Callamard said Prince Mohammed must have been aware of the cover-up efforts. She also insisted that any international sanctions over Khashoggi’s killing “ought also to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets abroad”.

AFP