Saudi Arabia: GCHR files complaint with French Prosecutor's Office against General Al-Asiri for murder of Jamal Khashoggi

02.05.21

Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, on behalf of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), French human rights lawyer William Bourdon lodged an official complaint with the Prosecutor's Office in Paris against Saudi Major General Ahmed Hassan Mohammad Al-Asiri, a close confidant and adviser to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Al-Asiri is the former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence agency, Al-Mukhabarat Al-A'amah, and the former spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and came to prominence internationally for his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The complaint, which was lodged in Paris on 30 April 2021, is based on the concept of universal jurisdiction and focused on acts of torture, including in the case of the unlawful arrest and subsequent torture and assassination of Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on 02 October 2018.

Bourdon told GCHR that he has "We are proud to support the crucial initiative of GCHR using the universal jurisdiction for this atrocious crime. It is the most efficient tool against those who remain unpunished."

Al-Asiri has been accused of being the organiser and planner of the murder of Khashoggi, as the person in charge of the Rapid Intervention Force (RIF), which carried out the murder. The United States has imposed sanctions on Al-Asiri under the Magnitsky Act.

GCHR has realised the need to address the lack of any local remedy in crimes of torture, therefore it has auhtorised Bourdon to lodge this case to enforce accountability and end impunity that most perpetrators of torture enjoy across the Middle East. On World Press Freedom Day, we remember Khashoggi and all journalists tortured and murdered across the region.

The case was lodged in France, where courts have jurisdiction over torture cases, and because Al-Asiri regularly travels to France, where he studied at the Saint-Cyr military academy. The complaint notes that if the French courts “do not intervene, justice will never be served,” which would “amount to a miscarriage of justice.”

In September 2020, GCHR protested the lack of accountability for those who ordered Khashoggi’s murder, after the Criminal Court in Riyadh issued its final verdicts in the case on 07 September 2020. The sentences included imprisonment of eight men for periods ranging from seven to 20 years.

The Public Prosecution also acquitted the former advisor to the crown prince, Saud Al-Qahtani, the consul in Istanbul Muhammad Al-Otaibi, and Major General Ahmed Al-Asiri, the former deputy director of intelligence. No charges were brought against them, and they were released.

GCHR previously welcomed 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 Khashoggi, found the Saudi government responsible for the “premeditated execution” of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

GCHR’s complaint heavily cites the report by the UN Special Rapporteur, and others, which confirm the “involvement of public officials at the highest level of the Saudi State” in Khashoggi’s murder.