Washington’s attitude in having named Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the one who ordered and directed the murder of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi but stopping short of imposing sanctions against him is “extremely dangerous,” says an expert with the United Nations.
A declassified US intelligence by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Friday revealed that MBS, the crown prince by his initials, had approved the brutal assassination.
The publication of the report has heaped pressure on President Joe Biden to make good on his campaign promises to realign Saudi ties after critics accused his predecessor, Donald Trump, of giving Saudi Arabia a pass on gross human rights violations.
“It is extremely problematic, in my view, if not dangerous, to acknowledge someone’s culpability and then to tell that someone ‘but we won’t do anything, please proceed as if have we have said nothing’,” said Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, on Monday.
“That to me is an extremely dangerous move on the part of the USA,” she further told a Geneva news conference.
Callamard said what had been declassified “appears to be very little indeed and that’s disappointing,” adding that she had expected more material evidence in the intelligence report.
Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic of bin Salman, was killed after being lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018, and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad.
The Saudi government initially claimed Khashoggi left the consulate on that day, but Riyadh later said – allegedly after a thorough investigation into the case – it had reached the conclusion that he had been killed by a “rogue” group and not by direct order from the crown prince, who is seen as the de facto ruler of the kingdom.
Despite official denials by Riyadh, some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed MBS ordered the assassination, which caused an international uproar against Saudi Arabia.
“There are many things that the US government can do. The one thing it cannot do – it cannot do – is to be silent and take no action on their findings,” Callamard said.
On Saturday, Biden said his administration would make an announcement on Saudi Arabia on Monday, but a White House official suggested later that no significant new steps were expected.