UN official counters Saudi claims over Khashoggi report

UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard said Wednesday that she absolutely did not rely on media reports to reach a conclusion in her investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as Saudi Arabia claimed, Anadolu reports.

Speaking at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Callamard said the evidence gathered during the inquiry into Khashoggi’s killing suggested that the Saudi state is responsible for the murder.

Abdulaziz Alwasil, Saudi ambassador to the UN in Geneva, claimed that Callamard’s report was “based on prejudice and prefabricated ideas” and used “non-credible articles or sources”.

“I have absolutely not relied on media reports to reach my conclusion. I have not made public my sources because my sources were fearful of retaliation,” said Callamard.

Callamard said she shared the report with Saudi authorities two weeks before it was made public and received no feedback.

“I am still committed to that cooperation. I remain open to meeting with the Saudi authorities to discuss my findings and what they may find problematic,” she added.

A UN report released last week confirmed that 11 people are being tried in the case.

Read: Online petition calls for release of Saudi Salman Al-Ouda

Callamard reiterated her call to the Saudi government to fully cooperate with Turkey and the international community to ensure transparency in the trial and that the chain of command is being investigated.

Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, also addressed the council.

“The report makes it clear that an international investigation must take place. I call on the [UN] secretary general to urge member states to support Agnes’s call for this investigation,” she said.

“As Agnes has said, it is time for sanctions. Those who are behind the murder and coverup should face punishment.”

Sadik Arslan, the Turkish ambassador to the UN in Geneva, also called on the international community to support Callamard’s recommendations.

Speaking at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council, Arslan said Turkey supported Callamard throughout her investigation and shared all information related to the murder with her.

“We strongly support Callamard’s recommendations for justice and the accountability of this crime. We also invite all members of the international community to support these proposals in order to ensure that Khashoggi lies in peace forever.”

Callamard published the report last week, which said the murder last fall in Istanbul of Khashoggi “constituted an extrajudicial killing” for which “Saudi Arabia is responsible”.

In the report, Callamard said she found “credible evidence” to further probe the liability of Saudi officials in Khashoggi’s killing, including Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Among its other recommendations, the UN report calls on the FBI and UN secretary general to launch criminal investigations into the murder of Khashoggi, who was a US resident.

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 last year.

Riyadh offered various, conflicting narratives to explain his disappearance before acknowledging he was murdered in the diplomatic building while seeking to shift blame for his death on a botched rendition operation being carried out by rogue agents.

Khashoggi’s body has not been recovered, and the Kingdom has remained silent on its whereabouts.