Posts Tagged ‘Jamal Khashoggi’

Saudi Arabia claiming to take the lead on human rights implementation…

November 2, 2019

Human Rights Commission (HRC) President Awwad Al-Awwad tol inaugurate on Sunday a new initiative.
Whay to say about this news item published by the Saudi Gazette on 1 November 2019? On the one hand we all wish that countries take the implementation of international human rights mechanisms seriously. On the other hand, there must be a limit to obfuscation. The Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC) has no independent status [see https://nhri.ohchr.org/EN/Documents/Status%20Accreditation%20Chart%20(04%20March%202019.pdf].
In March 2019, the Human Rights Commission defended the Saudi authorities’ refusal to allow an international investigation into the 2 October 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashogg.

Still, the article boosts that Human Rights Commission President Awwad Al-Awwad will inaugurate on Sunday an initiative to use the national database in order to track the implementation of the recommendations of the international mechanisms with regard to human rights abd thus will become the first Arab country to implement this initiative.

The ceremony will be held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. The initiative comes within the framework of a memorandum of technical cooperation signed between the Kingdom, represented by HRC, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Under the deal, HRC works to enhance national capacities in the fields of human rights within the Kingdom and outside, through the preparation, development and implementation of specialized training programs, including the mechanisms of the United Nations and the work of the competent international organizations.

Meanwhile, Al-Awwad made on Thursday an inspection tour of the General Intelligence Prison in Al-Hair, near Riyadh, and was reassured of the services being offered to the inmates. He also reviewed the prison’s compliance of the human rights criteria in line with the local and international conventions and regulations. Al-Awwad toured various facilities of the prison, including governmental and non-governmental offices that monitor the conditions of the inmates as well as the family facility where inmates meet their relatives, and the prison hospital.

For more of my posts on Saudi Arabia see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/saudi-arabia/

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/article/581459/SAUDI-ARABIA/Awwad-to-launch-human-rights-initiative-on-Sunday

Can the UN do more to resolve Khashoggi’s murder?

October 3, 2019

Agnès Callamard
Callamard is speaking on the subject at Columbia University.

Exactly a year after Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnès Callamard, remains categorical: UN Secretary-General António Guterres can and should do more about the murder, and so should member states. “I am asking the secretary-general of the United Nations, the various heads of states, including in Europe, Canada and Australia, to speak publicly about the situation and to do so in places and circumstances where it is difficult to do it,” Callamard told PassBlue. “The demand I am making should not carry a heavy political cost if it is done in a more collective fashion.”In her June report investigating the murder of Khashoggi — the only official UN word on the matter — Callamard called on Guterres and UN member countries to launch an international criminal investigation and asked heads of state to rally against Saudi Arabia’s blatant attack on freedom of the press. See https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/19/news-un-expert-agnes-callamard-says-saudi-arabia-is-responsible-for-extrajudicial-killing-of-khashoggi-and-calls-it-international-crime/

Callamard also explored other options to hold the perpetrators accountable in Turkey and in the US, saying in the report, “The killing of Mr Khashoggi thus constitutes an international crime over which other states should claim universal jurisdiction.

 

Callamard supports the notion of a Security Council resolution — which are legally binding — to call on countries around the world to unite behind a push to resolve the murder. But that’s easier said than done. Saudi Arabia, an influential, oil-rich country in the troubled Middle East, has a record of human-rights abuses, but it is often left alone by the UN Human Rights Council (of which it is currently a member) and other nations, including democratic ones in the West. Amal Clooney, Britain’s special envoy on media freedom, told The Guardian on Oct. 1 that “she expected a specialist legal panel, set up by the UK government and due to report soon, to champion a new standing UN investigatory mechanism into such killings.” It is unclear if other permanent members of the Security Council besides Britain — China, France, Russia and the US, some of them close allies and big suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia — are willing to stick their necks out to defend press freedom and pursue the gruesome murder of a 59-year-old journalist who worked for one of America’s most prestigious newspapers.

Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, has traveled the world to ask countries to help resolve the murder. She was warmly greeted in many of them, she said at a conference at Columbia University, in New York, on Sept. 27, speaking through an interpreter. But not only did they resist her request for action, “they never said anything negative against Saudi Arabia.” Even members of the European Union, known to be outspoken about human-rights violations, have shown no formal or informal support to act.

Callamard, who is French and directs the Global Freedom of Expression project at Columbia University, said that she, too, traveled to many European countries during her investigation, and while they cooperated with her, none offered to help. She said she hoped that European and other Western countries, including the US and Canada, would unite to denounce Saudi Arabia’s crime in a more concerted way. (The US did denounce the murder but left it to the Saudi government to handle the case.)She worries that letting the case go will set a precedent, sending the message that persecuting journalists is something any country is free to do with impunity.

 

 

https://www.passblue.com/2019/10/02/the-un-can-do-much-more-to-resolve-khashoggis-murder-says-agnes-callamard/

Lantos Award Human Rights Prize 2019 to Bill Browder, the instigator of the Magnitsky Sanctions

September 30, 2019

On 27 September 2019 at 10:30 the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice has given its Lantos Human Rights Prize 2019 to Bill Browder, the driving force behind the Magnitsky Sanctions. for more on this award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/lantos-human-rights-prize.

[In 2008, Sergei Magnitsky, a young Russian lawyer who uncovered massive tax fraud perpetrated by Russian officials, was charged with the very offenses he had uncovered. In an effort to cover up the crimes he had exposed, Magnitsky was sent to prison where he later died from abuse, neglect, and mistreatment. Bill Browder, for whom Magnitsky had worked, vowed to dedicate himself to seeking justice for Sergei and this crusade has made him a global human rights leader. First passed by the US Congress in 2012, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act authorized sanctions of government officials implicated in serious human rights abuses. ..Since its enactment, the US Government has sanctioned more than 70 officials in over a dozen different countries. Most recently, Magnitsky sanctions were enacted to penalize those Saudi Arabian officials implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.]

Bill Browder’s campaign for justice and accountability did not stop in the United States. Since 2012, similar Magnitsky laws have been enacted in Canada, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Latvia, and Lithuania. Despite fervent opposition from Russia and other lawless regimes that prefer to have their human rights abuses go unnoticed and unpunished, the European Union, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, and other EU member countries are considering the passage of their own Magnitsky laws.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/patrick-desbois-french-priest-who-uncovered-nazi-killings-awarded-lantos-prize/

https://www.prweb.com/releases/media_advisory_lantos_foundation_to_award_human_rights_prize_to_bill_browder_at_washington_ceremony/prweb16598333.htm

Saudi Arabia in the spotlight at the 42nd Sesstion of the Council – hits back wildly

September 25, 2019

The ISHR published a media release on 23 September 2019 about Australia delivering a joint statement on behalf of a cross-regional group of States expressing their concern over the persecution and intimidation of activists, including women human rights defenders, reports of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, unfair trials, arbitrary detention and impunity. It calls on the Saudi government to end impunity including for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, accept visits by UN experts, end the death penalty and ratify international human rights treaties.  [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/]

During the same debate, the sister of woman human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul, Lina Al-Hathloul called on the UN Human Rights Council to help her hold those who tortured her sister accountable, and secure her immediate and unconditional release.  Since March 2019, the Council has increased its scrutiny of Saudi Arabia, when Iceland delivered the first ever joint statement on the country. In June 2019, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions Dr. Agnes Callamard presented to the Council her investigation which found the State of Saudi Arabia responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018. The UN expert urged States to act immediately to ensure accountability for Khashoggi’s murder and guarantee non-repetition.

Australia, leading a cross-regional group of States, has stood up today for human rights despite the political and economic costs’, said Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council advocate. ‘The international community sent a strong and clear message to the government of Saudi Arabia that its crimes won’t go unanswered and that as a Council member, it will be held to heightened scrunity’. [The States who signed on the joint statement are: Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, The United Kingdom].

ISHR, as part of the Coalition of Free Saudi Women Human Rights Defenders has been advocating for the immediate and unconditional release of Saudi women’s rights activists. The statement has set out a list of measures that Saudi Arabia should take to demonstrate its political will to engage in good faith with the Council and improve its human rights record. They include:

  • ending the persecution and intimidation of activists, journalists, dissents and their family members;
  • ending impunity for torture and extrajudicial killings, including establishing the truth and accountability for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi;
  • ending its use of the death penalty;
  • accepting visits by relevant UN Special Procedures;
  • ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/16/rsfs-press-freedom-award-2019-goes-to-three-women-journalists/]

If Saudi Arabia does not meet any of the benchmarks, the Council should follow up with a resolution establishing a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in the country in the upcoming session in March 2020′, concluded El Hosseiny.  Read the joint statement here and watch Lina Al-Hathloul’s statement here.

In response the Saudi delegation has accused the Australian government of racism and of supporting anti-Islamic terrorists like the alleged Christchurch shooter.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/sep/25/saudi-arabia-accuses-australia-of-racism-in-extraordinary-un-broadside

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/alert-to-the-human-rights-councils-35th-session-32317?e=d1945ebb90

NEWS: UN expert, Agnes Callamard, says Saudi Arabia is responsible for ‘extrajudicial’ killing of Khashoggi and calls it ‘international crime’.

June 19, 2019

The UN rapporteur believes that the killing of Khashoggi constitutes an international crime [File: Sedad Suna/EPA-EFE]
The UN rapporteur believes that the killing of Khashoggi constitutes an international crime [File: Sedad Suna/EPA-EFE]

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 says UN extrajudicial executions investigator Agnes Callamard in her report which was released on Wednesday 19 June 2019. She said Khashoggi’s death “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible”. Al Jazeera published the Executive Summary (see below), while Rob Berschinski of Human Rights First calls on Congress to pursue accountability for his murder. “Callamard’s report underscores that there will be no justice for Jamal Khashoggi unless Congress steps up. Saudi leaders have made it clear that they intend to get away with murder. President Trump has made it clear that he values arms sales over the killing and dismemberment of a U.S. resident. Congress must make it clear that it will not let this stand,”. He added that “the Senate has passed aunanimous resolution that found, based on U.S. intelligence, that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for Khashoggi’s murder. Republican and Democratic House leaders have called for accountability. Now is the time for action, not words.”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/18/jamal-khashoggi-murder-the-plot-thickens/

——–

Executive summary

State Responsibilities

1.   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. From the perspective of international human rights law, State responsibility is not a question of, for example, which of the State officials ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s death; whether one or more ordered a kidnapping that was botched and then became an accidental killing; or whether the officers acted on their own initiative or ultra vires.

2.   The killing of Mr. Khashoggi further constituted a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (thereafter VCCR) and of the prohibition against the extra-territorial use of force in time of peace (customary law and UN Charter). In killing a journalist, the State of Saudi Arabia also committed an act inconsistent with a core tenet of the United Nations, the protection of freedom of expression.  As such, it can be credibly argued that it used force extra-territorially in a manner “inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

3.   Further, the circumstances of the killing of Mr. Khashoggi may constitute an act of torture under the terms of the Convention Against Torture, ratified by Saudi Arabia. Finally, the killing of Mr. Khashoggi may also constitute to this date an enforced disappearance since the location of his remains has not been established.

Individual liability

4.   The Special Rapporteur has determined that there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s.  She warns against a disproportionate emphasis on identifying who ordered the crime, pointing out that the search for justice and accountability is not singularly dependent on finding a smoking gun and the person holding it. The search is also, if not primarily, about identifying those who, in the context of the commission of a violation, have abused, or failed to fulfill, the responsibilities of their positions of authority. 

Duty to investigate and consular immunity

5.   The Special Rapporteur has found that both the investigations conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths.

6.   Saudi officials were present in the Saudi consulate and residence in Istanbul from 6 to 15 October during which time they presumably investigated the killing. However, the Special Rapporteur was not provided with any information regarding the evidence they may have collected during this period. The Saudi Public Prosecution made public a few of their findings on 15 November but the statement was light on details, limiting itself to a few general allegations. Other statements regarding the actions and responsibilities of specific individuals were a welcomed step. However, the Special Rapporteur notes that some of the individuals allegedly referenced in these statements and the identity of 11 perpetrators currently on trial do not match. Further, the Saudi authorities have yet to disclose the whereabouts of the remains of Mr. Khashoggi.

7.   The Special Rapporteur found that under the terms of the VCCR, Saudi authorities were under no legal obligation to grant access to the Consular premises to the Turkish investigators. However, Saudi Arabia was under an international obligation to cooperate with the Turkish authorities in the investigation of the killing of Mr. Khashoggi. Such cooperation necessarily demanded that they gave access to the consulate to the Turkish authorities in a prompt and effective fashion and in good faith. Consular immunity was never intended to enable impunity. 

8.   The Special Rapporteur found credible evidence pointing to the crime scenes having been thoroughly, even forensically, cleaned. These indicate that the Saudi investigation was not conducted in good faith, and that it may amount to obstructing justice. 

9.   Turkish investigators, accompanied by Saudi investigators, only had access to the Consulate on the 15th October for 6 hours and to the Consul’ residence on 17th October for around thirteen hours, where they also had to search the whole consular vehicle fleet. Their scientific and forensic inquiries were limited to “swabbing” and they were not allowed to drain a well located in the residence. The limitations imposed by Saudi Arabia on the Turkish investigation cannot be justified by the need to protect Consular operations.

10.  Turkish investigators decided not to search the Saudi Consulate without proper authorization from the Saudi authorities. The Special Rapporteur found that this was the appropriate way to proceed: creating an exception to the VCCR grounded inviolability of the Saudi Consular premises for the purpose of an investigation would have been unnecessary and disproportionate.

11.   She also found that Turkey’s fear over an escalation of the situation and retribution meant that the consular residences or consular cars were also not searched without permission even though they are not protected by the VCCR.

12.   The Special Rapporteur regrets that it appears no international body or other State came forward with an offer to “mediate” between the two parties to negotiate prompt and effective access to the crime scene.  This could have been done to also help de-escalate the crisis, protect equally the VCCR and human rights, and address as well the fear of retaliation. Instead, it appears that other Member States pondered rather only their own national and strategic interests. The United Nations either considered it had no evident means of intervention or elected not to intervene. In retrospect, it is evident that the ultimate casualty of these considerations was justice and accountability for Jamal Khashoggi.

Duty to protect and to warn

13.   On the basis of credible information at her disposal, the Special Rapporteur has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that either Turkey or the United States knew, or ought to have known, of a real and imminent or foreseeable threat to Mr. Khashoggi’s life. There was credible evidence to suggest that, had Mr. Khashoggi returned to Saudi Arabia, or been lured there, he would have been detained, possibly disappeared, and harmed. These risks were not linked to his life or presence in his countries of residence, namely the US or Turkey.  She did not secure credible evidence that US authorities had intercepted the Saudi Crown Prince’s communications or that such intercepts had been assessed before the time of the killing of Mr. Khashoggi.

14.   The killing of Mr. Khashoggi has highlighted the vulnerabilities of dissidents living abroad, and the risks they are facing of covert actions by the authorities of their countries of origin or non-State actors associated to them. The States of the countries where they have found residence or exile are under an obligation to respect their human rights, and protect them against violence by the States of the countries they have escaped from.  This obligation should entail, namely:

(a)   The duty to protect is triggered whenever Governments know or ought to know of a real and immediate threat or risk to someone’s life;

(b)   Such an obligation to protect includes, but is not limited to, a duty to warn the individual of an imminent threat to their life

(c)   The obligation to protect, including the duty to warn, is imposed on all Governments agencies and institutions, and thus includes Intelligence Agencies

(d)   The obligation to protect applies regardless of the status of citizen or alien on the territories of the State.

(e)   The obligation to protect, including the duty to warn, demands that risks assessment take into account whether some individuals may be particularly at risk because of their identity or activities, such as journalists or human rights defenders.

(f)    The obligation to protect, including the duty to warn, may be triggered extra-territorially, whenever States exercise power or effective control over individual’s enjoyment of the right to life.

Duty to prosecute and reparations

15.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken timid steps towards addressing its State responsibilities in terms of prosecution and reparation. But these stop short of what is required under international law. The accountability gap is all the more worrying given that it concerns a crime that has received an unprecedented level of attention and outcry internationally, including official public condemnation the world over.

16.  The on-going trial in Saudi Arabia of 11 suspects in the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, while an important step towards accountability, fails to meet procedural and substantive standards. The trial is held behind closed doors; the identity of those charged has not been released nor is the identity of those facing the death penalty. At the time of writing, at least one of those identified as responsible for the planning and organizing of the execution of Mr. Khashoggi has not been charged. 

17.  The Government of Saudi Arabia has invited representatives of Turkey and of the permanent members of the Security Council to attend at least some of the hearings.  However, the Special Rapporteur has been told that this trial observation was conditional upon agreement to not disclose its details. Trial observation under those conditions cannot provide credible validation of the proceedings or of the investigation itself. It is particularly concerning that, given the identity of the observers, the institution of the UN Security Council itself has been made complicit in what may well amount to a miscarriage of justice. 

18.  In view of her concerns regarding the trial of the 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia, the Special Rapporteur calls for the suspension of the trial.

19.  To date the Saudi State has failed to offer public recognition of its responsibility for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi and it has failed to offer an apology to Mr. Khashoggi’s family, friends and colleagues for his death and for the manner in which he was killed. The Special Rapporteur obtained information regarding a financial package offered to the children of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi but it is questionable whether such package amounts to compensation under international human rights law. 

20.  The restructuring of the Intelligence Services announced by King Salman is insufficient. There has been no subsequent information elaborating on the impact of the restructuring (or any other measures) on the decision-making, training, and codes of ethics of the Security Agencies, to name a few issues of concern.  Instead, one would expect the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to demonstrate non-repetition including by releasing all individuals imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their opinion and belief; investigating all allegations of torture and lethal use of force in formal and informal places of detention; investigating all allegations of enforced disappearances and making public the whereabouts of individuals disappeared. It should also undertake an in-depth assessment of the actors, institutions and circumstances that made it possible for the execution of Mr. Khashoggi to be carried forward and identify the reforms required to ensure non-repetition.

Universal jurisdiction

21.  The Special Rapporteur believes that the killing of Mr Kashoggi constitutes an international crime over which States should claim universal jurisdiction. The killing of Mr. Khashoggi is a violation of a jus cogen norm. It violates the VCCR and the prohibition against the extraterritorial use of force in times of peace. The circumstances of the execution may amount to an act of torture under the Convention Against Torture. It is a continuing case of enforced disappearance since the remains of Mr. Khashoggi have not been located. It concerns a journalist in self-imposed exile. His execution has an enduring international impact.

Accountability

22.  The Special Rapporteur is concerned that legal accountability for the execution of Mr. Khashoggi is being made difficult to obtain. The trial underway in Saudi Arabia will not deliver credible accountability. Turkey has not initiated proceedings yet and hopes for credible accountability are weak in a country with such a track record of imprisonment of journalists. Jurisdictional challenges and the impossibility of conducting a trial in absentia mean that a trial in the US will face many challenges. The Special Rapporteur makes a number of proposals for how some of these issues may be addressed while warning that no one proposal on its own will deliver credible accountability.

23.  The Special Rapporteur emphasizes that the search for accountability and justice should include other means, including political, diplomatic, financial, symbolic. Actions to celebrate and recall the life of Jamal Khashoggi have an important part to play in ensuring public accountability for his execution.


https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/un-khashoggi-report-call-action

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/khashoggi-executive-summary-callamard-report-190619105102019.html

Controversial spyware company promises to respect human rights…in the future

June 19, 2019

This photo from August 25, 2016, shows the logo of the Israeli NSO Group company on a building in Herzliya, Israel. (AP Photo/Daniella Cheslow)

This photo from August 25, 2016, shows the logo of the Israeli NSO Group company on a building in Herzliya, Israel. (AP Photo/Daniella Cheslow)

Newspapers report that controversial Israeli spyware developer NSO Group will in the coming months move towards greater transparency and align itself fully with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the company’s owners said over the weekend. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/19/novalpina-urged-to-come-clean-about-targeting-human-rights-defenders/]

Private equity firm Novalpina, which acquired a majority stake in NSO Group in February, said that within 90 days it would “establish at NSO a new benchmark for transparency and respect for human rights.” It said it sought “a significant enhancement of respect for human rights to be built into NSO’s governance policies and operating procedures and into the products sold under licence to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The company has always stated that it provides its software to governments for the sole purpose of fighting terrorism and crime, but human rights defenders and NGOs have claimed the company’s technology has been used by repressive governments to spy on them. Most notably, the spyware was allegedly used in connection with the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year and whose body has never been found.

Last month London-based Amnesty International, together with other human rights activists, filed a petition to the District Court in Tel Aviv to compel Israel’s Defense Ministry to revoke the export license it granted to the company that Amnesty said has been used “in chilling attacks on human rights defenders around the world.”

On Friday the Guardian reported that Yana Peel, a well-known campaigner for human rights and a prominent figure in London’s art scene, is a co-owner of NSO, as she has a stake in Novalpina, co-founded by her husband Stephen Peel. Peel told the Guardian she has no involvement in the operations or decisions of Novalpina, which is managed by my husband, Stephen Peel, and his partners and added that the Guardian’s view of NSO was “quite misinformed.”

And Citizen Lab is far from re-assured:  https://citizenlab.ca/2019/06/letter-to-novalpina-regarding-statement-on-un-guiding-principles/…

https://www.timesofisrael.com/controversial-nso-group-to-adopt-policy-of-closer-respect-for-human-rights/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/18/whatsapp-spyware-israel-cyber-weapons-company-novalpina-capital-statement

Jamal Khashoggi murder: the plot thickens

March 18, 2019

On 17 March 2019, the New York Times reported that the Crown Prince (MBS) authorised a clandestine campaign against Saudi dissenters and human rights defenders well before Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

The Rapid Intervention Group was authorised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court insider, US officials told the NYT [File: Reuters]
The Rapid Intervention Group was authorised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman US officials told the NYT [File: Reuters]

More than a year before the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, approved a secret campaign to silence dissenters, the New York Times has reported. The campaign included surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudis, said the report published on Sunday citing the US officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the effort. American officials referred to it as the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group, the Times said. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/08/saudi-arabia-for-first-time-openly-criticized-in-un-human-rights-council/]

…..At least some of the clandestine missions were carried out by the members of the team that killed and dismembered Khashoggi in October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, suggesting his murder was part of a wider campaign against dissidents, the report said, citing the US officials and associates of some Saudi victims. These members were involved in at least a dozen operations beginning in 2017, the officials said, including forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries.

According to the New York-based newspaper, the Rapid Intervention Group has been involved in the harassment of arrested prominent human rights activists and women’s rights defenders, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Iman al-Najfan.

Alia al-Hathloul says that al-Qahtani attended several such sessions to torture her sister. He also threatened to kill Loujain and throw her body into the sewers, Alia says. According to the newspaper, the women were beaten, subjected to electric shocks, waterboarding, and threatened with death and rape during the interrogations. Loujain’s sister says that at first the Saudi authorities did not send the arrested women to jail, but in a secret location in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. According to US intelligence assessment, the brutal interrogations prompted university professor al-Najfan to attempt suicide. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/saudi-arabia-persist-with-trial-for-women-human-rights-defenders/]

Saudi officials declined to confirm or deny that such a team existed, or answer questions from the Times about its work.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/mbs-approved-intervention-dissidents-nyt-report-190318075621971.html

Saudi Arabia for first time openly criticized in UN Human Rights Council

March 8, 2019

Whether by intent or by coincidence, the very critical statement of the UN Human Rights Council on Saudi Arabia came on International Women’s Day 2019. There was considerable media attention. Interesting to note is the difference in emphasis between the NYT and the Washington Post:

By Nick Cumming-Bruce wrote for the NYT on 7 March 2019:

“Dozens of Western countries rebuked Saudi Arabia for its aggressive crackdown on free expression in a landmark initiative on Thursday in the United Nations’ top human rights body. It was the first time states had ever confronted the kingdom over its human rights record in the United Nations Human Rights Council, where Saudi Arabia is one of 47 members. The rebuke came in a statement signed by 36 nations — including every member of the European Union — that condemned Saudi Arabia’s “continuing arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders” and its use of counterterrorism laws to silence peaceful dissent. The statement pointed in particular to the treatment of Saudi women who have challenged the kingdom’s strict rules. The nations also called on Saudi Arabia to cooperate fully with investigations into the death of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The statement specifically named 10 people, all arrested last year in a crackdown that started shortly before Saudi Arabia introduced reforms allowing women to drive: Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan, Aziza Al-Yousef, Nassima Al-Sadah, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdelaziz, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Mohammed Al-Bajadi, Amal Al-Harbi and Shadan al-Anezi. The statement drew applause from human rights groups, which said it broke Saudi Arabia’s apparent impunity from condemnation in the council.

“It sends a strong signal that Saudi Arabia is not untouchable, and that council members should be held to a higher level of scrutiny,” said Salma El Hosseiny, an advocate for the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights.

——-

Ishaan Tharoor wrote for the Washington Post of 8 March 2019 :”The West’s rebuke of Saudi Arabia won’t change its course”


(Anjum Naveed/AP)

The rhetorical attacks keep coming at Saudi Arabia from the West. On Thursday, the European Union signed on to a rare rebuke of the kingdom. …The statement was the first collective reprimand of Riyadh issued at the council since it was founded in 2006…Both the Trump administration and Saudi officials have sought to shield Mohammed from scrutiny, but that hasn’t dimmed the outrage of a host of Western governments and lawmakers. In Washington, Congress is still battling the White House over the latter’s flouting of a legal requirement to report to the Senate on the crown prince’s role in Khashoggi’s death. Though U.S. politicians remain bitterly divided on most issues, they have found an unusual consensus in their antipathy toward Riyadh……..

But the Saudis’ response has so far been categorical and unrepentant. “Interference in domestic affairs under the guise of defending human rights is in fact an attack on our sovereignty,” said Abdul Aziz Alwasil, the kingdom’s permanent representative in Geneva, in reaction to the European Union’s statement. Similar bullish statements came from the Saudi Foreign Ministry this year as members of Congress weighed the passage of a punitive bill.

That Riyadh has endured only the slightest course corrections amid months of controversy speaks, firstly, to the durability of the monarchy’s economic ties with a host of major powers. International political and business elites have shown themselves all too willing to overlook a regime’s record when it suits their interests. But it also speaks to the fact that despite their concerns over Khashoggi’s death, insiders in Washington cheer the Saudi push toward a more “normal” and secular modernity encouraged by Mohammed’s ambitious economic and social reform agenda. Movie theaters have sprung up, and women can now learn to drive — no matter that key female activists who clamored for these rights are still in prison.

Mohammed has championed these reforms by inculcating a new spirit of nationalism. “Saudi Arabia’s undergoing an aggressive nationalist rebranding, downplaying an austere religious doctrine associated abroad with terrorism, and promoting veneration of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he pursues an economic overhaul,” noted Bloomberg News this week, exploring the extent to which overt nationalism is supplanting the kingdom’s traditional religious orthodoxy. “Amid efforts to maintain domestic support while redesigning the contract between state and citizen, traitors, not infidels, are the enemy.”

The lecturing from Western capitals, too, plays into this dynamic, deepening national feeling among many patriotic Saudis who have rallied around their prince in the face of “unbalanced” criticism from abroad, said Ali Shihabi, founder of the Arabia Foundation, a Washington think tank with close ties to Riyadh. He added that “inspiring nationalism is an objective” of Mohammed’s reform agenda.

Critics of the crown prince view him as a fundamentally destabilizing leader. Other experts argue that he’s here to stay. “It’s impossible to not see how much the country has changed” under Mohammed’s watch, said former U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross at a panel hosted by the Arabia Foundation last week, saying that though the crown prince may be “reckless,” the United States has much to gain from a “successful transformation” from Wahhabism to nationalism in Saudi Arabia.

—–See also this video clip by OMCT:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1103696655906492417

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-human-rights-abuses.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/08/wests-rebuke-saudi-arabia-wont-change-its-course/?utm_term=.5e411da39e34

Peter Nkanga awarded with inaugural Jamal Khashoggi Award for Courageous Journalism

March 7, 2019

Peter Nkanga, multilingual investigative journalist and former West Africa Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has been declared the laureate of the first “Jamal Khashoggi Award for Courageous Journalism” in 2019.

The award is administered by the US-based Inti Raymi Fund. For more information on this and similar awards for journalists, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/jamal-khashoggi-award-for-courageous-journalism.

In a letter signed by Anas Talalqa, Human Rights Advisor at Inti Raymi Fund, the organisation congratulated Mr Nkanga for his selection for the award, noting that the “The Award honors the brave journalists who expose abuse of power and corruption, share difficult truths, discuss taboo topics, and work in hostile environments/

Today … dedicate this Award to all journalists and human rights defenders in #Africa. The struggle is real, but it is not over until We Win. #JusticeForJamal,” Peter Nkanga tweeted about the award.

Nigerian Peter Nkanga has been at the forefront of the campaign for the rights of journalists in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, he spearheaded the advocacy for the release of a journalist, Jones Abiri, publisher of Bayelsa State-based weekly paper, Weekly Source. He also coordinated the advocacy and protests in Nigeria on Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was murdered at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/317920-nigerian-journalist-peter-nkanga-selected-for-2019-jamal-khashoggi-award-for-courageous-journalism.html

Other members of the UN’s Khashoggi investigation team named

January 26, 2019

The United Nations’ human rights office in Geneva confirmed on Friday a Reuters report that three-member team of international experts would conduct an inquiry into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/26/u-n-rapporteur-agnes-callamard-to-investigate-kashoggi-murder/]. The other two panel members – in addition to Agnes Callamard – are British barrister Helena Kennedy and Duarte Nuno Vieira, a pathology expert and professor at the department of legal and forensic medicine and ethics and medical law at Coimbra University, Portugal.

The trio will visit Turkey from Jan 28-Feb 3 and plan to report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June, it said.

There was no word on whether the panel would seek access to Saudi Arabia or whether the kingdom would cooperate. The Saudi diplomatic mission in Geneva did not respond to inquiries. On 29 January Human Rights Watch stated that the team has in fact requested to visit Saudi Arabia. HRW added that” Once Callamard presents her findings to the Human Rights Council, UN member states should explore avenues for holding to account everyone responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, from the operatives who dismembered him with a bone saw to any officials who ordered or organized the killing.”

Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/un-names-members-of-international-inquiry-on-khashoggi-murder-11166718

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/29/un-rights-expert-independently-investigates-khashoggi-murder