Saudi Arabia: Special rapporteur calls for UN inquiry into murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the report released on 19 June 2019 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings, Agnès Callamard. The report, which was the result of a six-month probe investigating the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, found the Saudi Arabian government responsible for the “premeditated execution” of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. 

The 99-page report (which can be downloaded from the UN news release here) published some disturbing conversations from inside the consulate at the time of the murder in which the “separation of joints”, and cutting the body “into pieces” is discussed.

Since Khashoggi’s murder, GCHR has witnessed with great concern the impunity which has emboldened the Saudi authorities to go after other activists. Recently several activists have been warned that their lives are in danger. Among them is Arab pro-democracy activist Iyad Al-Baghdadi who has been placed under government protection in Norway after the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States warned that he was being threatened by Saudi Arabia. Al-Baghdadi was a friend and colleague of Khashoggi.

“Lack of accountability is not only preventing justice in the case of Khashoggi but also putting other lives in danger,” said GCHR Journalism Protection Coordinator Zaynab Al-Khawaja. It is necessary to have such investigations and reports making it clear who is responsible for these crimes, and it is equally important that action is taken against those responsible, to end the culture of impunity.

The Special Rapporteur’s report makes recommendations to UN bodies and members states, the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and corporations. She calls on the UN Secretary General to “Initiate a follow-up criminal investigation into the killing of Mr. Khashoggi to build-up strong files on each of the alleged perpetrators and identify mechanisms for formal accountability, such as an ad hoc or hybrid tribunal.” GCHR will follow up on the report’s recommendation to civil society to “advocate, support and contribute to the implementation of [her] recommendations.”

GCHR calls for similar UN investigations into the torture of women human rights defenders, including the six women mentioned in the Special Rapporteur’s report who were subjected to various forms of torture in Saudi jails since a crackdown on women’s rights defenders began in May 2018. Many of the women remain in jail suffering. Earlier in 2019, GCHR published a report on torture of women human rights defenders in Saudi prisons, as well as a joint submission on torture in Saudi Arabia to the UN Committee Against Torture. We also call for an intervention for the prisoners of conscience who have been sentenced to death, hoping their lives can be saved rather than their deaths investigated, as in the case of Khashoggi.

The Special Rapporteur’s report will be presented to the UN at Human Rights Council’s 41st session from 24 June to 12 July 2019.