Remember Jamal Khashoggi?
Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hope your answer to that question is “no”.
Because if you said “yes”, it means you probably remember that Khashoggi was a prominent dissident and a Washington Post columnist who met a ghastly end in October inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate, where he was murdered and dismembered by a 15-man hit squad dispatched by Prince Mohammed.
Of course, it’s hard to get away with something like that on Turkish soil because, after all, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan runs a police state, which means he had the consulate bugged for sound, and promptly used the evidence against the Saudis in a spitefully hilarious effort to exact revenge for the quashing of the Arab Spring and score one for Ankara’s ally in Doha, following the Saudi-led blockade that threatened to spark an economic crisis in Qatar in the summer of 2017.
Fortunately for Prince Mohammed, he’s got friends in high places, where that means that between Riyadh’s traditional alliance with Washington, the Saudis’ relationship with Trump and the Crown Prince’s bromance with Jared Kushner, the Trump administration not only looked the other way amid the international outcry around Khashoggi’s murder, but actually went so far as the essentially claim that the CIA was lying about the prince’s culpability.
The US did sanction more than a dozen Saudis, but that announcement came in conjunction with the announcement from Riyadh of a probe into those same people, which means the whole thing was obviously coordinated. Trump insisted throughout that there was no proof that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, despite the fact that there was proof and even if there wasn’t, common sense was all you needed in this case.
Eventually, Congress attempted to punish the Saudis by passing a bipartisan resolution to halt US support for the war in Yemen, but Trump vetoed the bill. He and Mike Pompeo also stonewalled a Magnitsky Act request.
Read the full story in our Khashoggi archive
Well, on Wednesday, Agnes Callamard, a special rapporteur for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a 101-page report on the killing and she recommends an investigation into Prince Mohammed. The report calls on the UN to “demand” a criminal investigation into Bin Salman and Saud Alqahtani, the senior advisor who played prominently in the drama.
“There is credible evidence warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s”, Callamard said. Here’s more:
Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances. Every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched. Mr. Khashoggi’s killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible. His attempted kidnapping would also constitute a violation under international human rights law.
She also lambasts the Saudi response to the killing (which started with a farcical coverup attempt and eventually morphed into a pseudo-admission of guilt and an internal “investigation”) and calls for sanctions on Saudi officials including the Crown Prince, whose international assets should be targeted “until and unless evidence has been produced that he bears no responsibility for the execution of Mr. Khashoggi”.
Suffice to say that is unlikely to happen, because if anybody goes after Prince Mohammed’s assets or endeavors to sanction him personally, the Kingdom will respond angrily and the Trump administration would likely not participate.
Speaking of the Trump administration, Callamard also calls on the FBI to conduct a probe, and essentially demands that America determine whether Prince Mohammed is responsible. Of course, the CIA already determined that he was, and Trump simply ignored that determination, just as he ignored the Magnitsky Act request from Congress.
If you’re wondering whether Callamard obtained the infamous audio tapes of Khashoggi’s murder inside the consulate, the answer is “yes”, although just 45 minutes out of a total of 7 hours of tapes that Erdogan supposedly has.
Here are some excepts (the full report is embedded below):
On 2 October, between 10 and 11 in the morning, the fifteen Saudi officials split into two groups. Five went to the Consul General’s Residence, while the remaining ten went to the Consulate.
91. At 13:02, inside the Consulate, Mr. Mutreb and Dr. Tubaigy had a conversation just minutes before Mr. Khashoggi entered. Mr. Mutreb asked whether it will “be possible to put the trunk in a bag?” Dr. Tubaigy replied “No. Too heavy.” He expressed hope that it would “be easy. Joints will be separated. It is not a problem. The body is heavy. First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them.” “Leather bags.” There was a reference to cutting skin. Dr. Tubaigny also expressed concerns: “My direct manager is not aware of what I am doing. There is nobody to protect me.” At the end of the conversation, Mr. Mutreb asked whether “the sacrificial animal” has arrived. At 13:13, a voice said “he has arrived.” In these recordings heard by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Khashoggi’s name was not mentioned. 92. At 13:15, Mr. Khashoggi entered the Consulate by himself, after leaving his phones with Ms. Cengiz, who remained outside. Turkish Intelligence assessed that he may have been dead within ten minutes after entering the Consulate.39 93. Reconstruction of the events that transpired when Mr. Khashoggi was inside the Consulate relies largely on the recordings, the forensic work conducted by Turkish Investigators, and information available from the ongoing trials of the suspects in Saudi Arabia. 94. Once inside the Consulate, Mr. Khashoggi appears to have been met by someone he knew. He also said something about the Consul General being present. He was invited to the office of the Consul General located on the second floor of Consulate. According to recordings, the conversation with him first focused on whether Mr. Khashoggi would come back to Saudi Arabia, and he responded that he wanted to return in the future. Mr. Khashoggi was then told40: “We will have to take you back. There is an order from Interpol. Interpol requested you to be sent back. We are coming to get you.” Mr. Khashoggi replied that “there isn’t a case against me. I notified some people outside; they are waiting for me; a driver is waiting for me.” Later on, Mr. Khashoggi is heard to say that there was no driver but that his fiancée is waiting for him. On several occasions, a Saudi official told Mr. Khashoggi “let’s make it short.” At 13:22, Mr. Mutreb asked whether Mr. Khashoggi had phones. Mr. Khashoggi replied “Two phones.” “Which brands?” “Apple phones.” “Send a message to your son.” “Which son? What should I say to my son?” Silence. “You will type a message – let’s rehearse; show us.” “What should I say? See you soon? I can’t say kidnapping.” “Cut it short.” “Take off your jacket.” “How could this happen in an embassy?” “I will not write anything.” “Cut it short.” “I will not write anything.” “Type it, Mr. Jamal. Hurry up. Help us so that we can help you because at the end we will take you back to Saudi Arabia and if you don’t help us you know what will happen at the end; let this issue find a good end.” At 13:33, Mr. Khashoggi said “there is a towel here. Are you going to give me drugs?” “We will anesthetize you.” 95. In the recordings, sounds of a struggle can be heard during which the following statements could also be heard: “Did he sleep?” “He raises his head.” “Keep pushing.” “Push here; don’t remove your hand; push it.” Assessments of the recordings by intelligence officers in Turkey and other countries suggest that Mr. Khashoggi could have been injected with a sedative and then suffocated using a plastic bag. Turkish Intelligence also noted that the Saudi members of the 15 persons team spoke of a rope, but they could not conclusively determine if the rope was used to tie Mr. Khashoggi or possibly to move his body, or if it was used at all. 96. Sounds of movement and heavy panting could be heard in the remainder of the recordings. The sound of plastic sheets (wrapping) could also be heard. Turkish Intelligence concluded that these came after Mr. Khashoggi’s death while the Saudi officials were dismembering his body. The Turkish Intelligence assessment identified the sound of a saw at 13:39. The Special Rapporteur and her delegation could not make out the sources of the sounds they heard.