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UN probe links Saudi prince to Khashoggi murder

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Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistani President Arif Alvi during a recent Asian trip. Xinhua

GENEVA (AFP) – There is “credible evidence” linking Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, a UN expert said Wednesday, calling for sanctions on the prince’s foreign assets.

The conclusion was outlined in a report by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard.

Callamard, an independent human rights expert who does not speak for the United Nations but reports her findings to it, called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to initiate an international criminal investigation into the case.

She told reporters in Geneva it was clear “the execution of Mr Khashoggi was the responsibility of the state of Saudi Arabia.”

Callamard added: “There is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s.”

Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir slammed Callamard’s report, insisting on Twitter it “contains clear contradictions and unfounded allegations, casting doubt on its credibility.”

Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric responded to Callamard’s call for a UN inquiry by stating: “The Secretary-General does not have the power or the authority to launch criminal investigations without a mandate from a competent intergovernmental body. Power and authority to do that lies with Member States.”

If UN member states do not carry out a full and effective criminal investigation, they would have to back a Security Council resolution, under the appropriate UN Charter provisions.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of Prince Mohammed, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

His dismembered body has not been found.

Riyadh initially said it had no knowledge of his fate, but later blamed the murder on rogue agents.

Saudi prosecutors have absolved the crown prince of responsibility.

But Callamard said probes by Saudi Arabia and Turkey “failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths”.

The new report said there was evidence of the crime scene being “thoroughly, even forensically, cleaned” by the Saudis, in what “may amount to obstructing justice”.

The Saudi crown prince must have been aware of the cover-up efforts, Callamard said.

She stressed she had found no concrete evidence about who ordered the killing, but said “people directly implicated in the murder reported to him (the crown prince)”.

“What needs to be investigated is the extent to which the crown prince knew or should have known what would (happen) to Mr Khashoggi, whether he directly or indirectly incited the killing… (and) whether he could have prevented the execution,” she said.

The UN expert insisted that any international sanctions over Khashoggi’s killing “ought also to include the crown prince and his personal assets abroad, until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution”.

Asked whether there should be any arrests, she said: “if and when the responsibility of those individuals has been proven… then absolutely.”

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