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Protest at saudi embassy

Protesters demonstrate against the war in Yemen and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy on Oct. 25, 2018 in London. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

After Damning UN Report, Human Rights and Press Freedom Advocates Demand Justice for Khashoggi

"Impunity in this case poses too great a risk to the safety of journalists everywhere."

Jessica Corbett

Defenders of human rights and press freedom demanded Wednesday that U.S. and U.N. leaders seek justice for Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi following the release of a damning report which concluded that the Saudi national was "the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing" for which Saudi Arabia is responsible.

"This report is an important first step on the road to justice for Jamal Khashoggi. The U.S. government and U.N. member states have a moral duty to implement its recommendations."
—Robert Mahoney, CPJ

U.N. special rapporteur Agnès Callamard wrote in her report, released Wednesday, that evidence reviewed suggests the murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year required "significant government coordination, resources, and finances," and experts found it "inconceivable" that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) would not "at a minimum" be aware of such an operation.

The report came after U.S. intelligence services determined late last year that MBS likely orchestrated the assassination of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident. Despite that conclusion, the Trump administration has maintained a cozy relationship with the kingdom's leaders—and is even working to bypass Congress to sell the Saudis more weapons.

"Callamard's report shines further, much needed light on the brazen attempts by the Saudi government to cover up this atrocious crime, and to thwart efforts to investigate it," Summer Lopez of PEN America said in a statement. "Saudi Arabia's ongoing, flawed trial of alleged perpetrators ignores the clear evidence that Mohammad Bin Salman was behind the killing, and it cannot lead to true justice."

Lopez backed Callamard's call for an independent investigation into MBS's role in the killing but added that "it is also clear that the Trump administration is unlikely to take action against Saudi Arabia." Instead, she called for congressional action, pointing out that the House Foreign Affairs Committee "has already stated, on a bipartisan basis, its commitment to ensuring some measure of accountability for the killing."

"Impunity in this case poses too great a risk to the safety of journalists everywhere," she warned. "We urge principled, bipartisan action to ensure justice for Jamal Khashoggi and make clear that the murder of a journalist will not go unpunished."

Human Rights First's Rob Berschinski also called on U.S. lawmakers to respond.

"Callamard's report underscores that there will be no justice for Jamal Khashoggi unless Congress steps up," he said. "Saudi leaders have made it clear that they intend to get away with murder. Congress must make it clear that it will not let this stand."

Noting that the Senate already has passed a resolution that found MBS is responsible for Khashoggi's death, Berschinski added, "Now is the time for action, not words."

Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, demanded action from both the United States government and the United Nations.

"This report is an important first step on the road to justice for Jamal Khashoggi," said Mahoney. "The U.S. government and U.N. member states have a moral duty to implement its recommendations. Failure to do so sends the message that journalists can be murdered with impunity."

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East director of research, urged U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "to immediately take up the special rapporteur's recommendation to launch an international follow-up criminal investigation."

"Those proven to be responsible for this despicable act must be brought to justice, regardless of their official capacity," Maalouf said. "Guterres must send a strong signal that the targeted killings of dissidents, journalists, activists, and human rights defenders worldwide will be met with robust action."

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