A UN report has blamed Saudi state officials for the murder of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi but those suspected of ordering it have so far escaped trial. The report's author told DW justice is possible — in time.
Three months after the UN special rapporteur's report into the vicious murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a full reckoning for Khashoggi's killers has been elusive.
While a trial in Saudi Arabia is going ahead, many believe those who ordered the hit have been left out of the process.
Deutsche Welle spoke to the report's author, Agnes Callamard, about what shape justice might take.
DW: What do you make of the Saudi process to bring Khashoggi's killers to justice?
Agnes Callamard: Overall, the trial is failing to meet international standards. It's held behind closed doors. The masterminds are not included in the trial. It's not known why those 11 people have been charged and no others, considering that there were 15 people in the kill team plus their accomplice in Riyadh. The trial does not include Saud al-Qahtani, even though the prosecutor himself had identified him in a public statement as a person who had incited the team to abduct Mr. Khashoggi.
The only conclusion that one can reach is that if accountability is going to be delivered, it will have to be done through other paths.
Mohammed bin Salman has been quoted as saying that he bears a responsibility because the killing happened on his watch. Is he guilty of ordering the killing?
In my report I found that the crown prince has a responsibility in relationship to the killing but that I was not in a position to define that responsibility, which could take several shapes. It could be about ordering the crime. It could be a responsibility for inciting the crime. It could be a responsibility for failing to prevent the crime. It is not my mandate to pinpoint which form Mohammed bin Salman's (MBS) responsibility took.
That's why I have called for a follow-up investigation. Many members of the American House or Senate I have met who were briefed by the CIA have said publicly and repeatedly that MBS was responsible for the killing. I have not read or heard the CIA briefing; this is why I asked in my report for it to be declassified.
Who would be likely to carry out the investigation you are calling for? Is it likely to go ahead?
I have asked for the secretary-general to appoint an international panel of experts to review the evidence available and maybe collect more. So far, the secretary-general has resisted the call and hidden himself behind administrative or legal procedures, which I believe he's overstating.
That, however, does not mean that these are the only mechanisms to identify the masterminds. I have suggested in my report, and continue to advocate for, the FBI to undertake an investigation, because it has a mandate to do so. I have asked for the Turkish authorities and prosecutor to move forward with the public inquest or trial in absentia, so that the information at their disposal can be made public.
I have also suggested that the killing of Khashoggi has shown an accountability deficit within our international system and the necessity for the UN to equip itself with an instrument to investigate state and criminal responsibilities. It would be an international impartial investigatory mechanism for targeted killings. That's what I'm advocating for now to depoliticize future decision-making.
My view is that justice is going to take time. I've never expected justice to be delivered just three months after my report. So I'm not naive but I'm resilient.
What does justice in this case look like? Will we be able to come to a definitive truth?
I think we will reach a definitive truth and a credible one, eventually. I'm hoping that, eventually, the person who is ultimately responsible for ordering the killing will face his day in court. But if you look at history, then you know that it takes a long time for high-level officials to be indicted.
Sanctions are part of justice for Jamal. At the moment, the sanctions are weak, in my view. They need to be directed at much higher elements within the state, and I have strongly suggested that they should include the crown prince.
What is also part of justice for Jamal is a celebration of the work he's done, of the values he died for. Any kind of cultural symbolic measure that can be taken to celebrate him in many places around the world is also accountability and justice for Jamal.
And finally, strengthening institutions and mechanisms so that journalists are better protected, so that if they are attacked there will be a strong international response to those attacks.
I think that, in any case, the reputation of MBS has been tarnished forever and that, too, is justice for Jamal. At least in the history books of the future, I think it is going to be very difficult for the crown prince to ever recover from what he tried to do behind closed doors, and I think his reputation as the modernist king or prince has been uncovered for what it is: a very empty shell at the end of the day. Yes, he has taken a couple of measures but I think ultimately the king is naked. You know, the clothes he is wearing are very thin and there is really very little behind them. The emperor is naked and the servants will be increasingly speaking out.