Pressure is mounting on Canada and the United States to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the wake of a United Nations report that offers one of the most comprehensive accounts yet of his killing.
The probe by the UN’s expert on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, called on the international community to impose tougher sanctions on Saudi officials – including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s effective ruler – and for both the United Nations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to launch criminal investigations into the slaying.
It also reconstructed Mr. Khashoggi’s death in detail, including a grisly conversation in which two of his killers referred to him as “the sacrificial animal” as they discussed how best to dismember his body.
“Mr. Khashoggi’s killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible,” Ms. Callamard wrote. “There is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s.”
Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi exile in the United States who wrote op-eds critical of Mr. bin Salman for the Washington Post, was killed by a group of Saudi agents in that country’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 of last year. His body has not been found.
Saudi Arabia initially claimed Mr. Khashoggi had left the consulate alive, before changing its story. Riyadh now concedes he was killed, but claims it was the work of rogue agents. It has put several of the agents on trial, but the proceedings are taking place in secret.
U.S. senators pushed forward Wednesday with an effort to block sales of American weapons to Saudi Arabia. So far, only Germany has halted arms exports to Riyadh in the wake of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. The Trudeau government has allowed a $15-billion deal to sell Canadian-made military vehicles to go forward.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland endorsed Ms. Callamard’s demand for a criminal probe but stopped short of backing further sanctions.
“Those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder must be held to account and must face justice,” she said in a statement. “We continue to call for a full, international independent investigation.”
U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham laced into Mr. bin Salman at a foreign relations committee meeting.
“He did it. It wouldn’t have happened without him,” he said. “There’s no amount of oil coming out of Saudi Arabia … that will get me to back off.”
Canada, the United States and other countries have imposed sanctions on the agents believed to have killed Mr. Khashoggi.
But Ms. Callamard argued that all of the people targeted so far have been low-to-mid-level operatives. She called on countries to sanction Mr. bin Salman personally until his role can be fully investigated.
“In view of the credible evidence into the responsibilities of the Crown Prince for his murder, such sanctions ought also to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets abroad,” she wrote.
U.S. President Donald Trump has often seemed indifferent to the Khashoggi case, and has suggested that Saudi Arabia is too valuable an American ally in the Middle East to punish.
Sarah Snyder, an expert on U.S. foreign relations and human-rights policy at American University in Washington, said Congress has the power to impose consequences on the Saudi government if Mr. Trump will not act. She pointed to previous instances, in the 1970s and 80s, when Congress cut off security aid to Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile and put sanctions on apartheid South Africa without the co-operation of the Nixon and Reagan administrations.
“As a country that likes to believe it is a champion of human rights in the world, and holds itself up often as a beacon for other countries to follow, the U.S. has a moral obligation to speak out on these issues,” she said.
The Saudi operation to kill Mr. Khashoggi began when he visited the consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers allowing him to marry his Turkish fiancée on Sept. 28 of last year, Ms. Callamard wrote. Officials there told him to return Oct. 2 and notified Riyadh. The Saudi government dispatched a 15-man team to Istanbul.
Shortly after 1 p.m. on Oct. 2, a recording in the consulate picked up Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, an intelligence officer, and Dr. Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, the autopsy expert, appearing to discuss the logistics of the murder.
“Joints will be separated. It is not a problem,” Dr. Tubaigy said, according to the report. “If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them.” Mr. Mutreb called Mr. Khashoggi “the sacrificial animal” and wondered whether “the trunk” could be put in a bag.
Minutes later, Mr. Khashoggi arrived. The operatives told him he had to return to Saudi Arabia because of an Interpol warrant. When Mr. Khashoggi told them this was false, they told him to “cut it short” and to “take off your jacket.” Mr. Khashoggi asked at one point “how could this happen in an embassy?” and “are you going to give me drugs?” Someone on the tape told him he would be anesthetized.
This was followed by sounds of a struggle and the rustling of plastic sheets. Turkish investigators concluded Mr. Khashoggi was injected with a sedative, suffocated with a plastic bag and cut into pieces, Ms. Callamard wrote. His remains were taken to the Saudi consul-general’s residence.
Then, Saudi Arabia conducted a forensic cleaning of the consulate before Turkish officials were allowed inside, and refused to allow the search of a well on the consul-general’s property.
With a report from Michelle Zilio
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