Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, should be investigated in connection with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi because of “credible evidence” that the prince is among those liable for the dissident journalist’s death, a United Nations report said Wednesday.
While no “smoking gun” has yet been found that directly incriminates the prince in Khashoggi’s murder, identifying exactly who ordered the assassination is not the be-all and end-all of the matter, the report said. “The search is also, if not primarily, about identifying those who, in the context of the commission of a violation, have abused, or failed to fulfill, the responsibilities of their positions of authority,” said the report.
In that context, “there is credible evidence warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s,” the report said.
A frequent critic of the Saudi government, which is effectively overseen by the crown prince, Khashoggi was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, last October. The murder sparked international outrage, including in Hollywood, where companies had eagerly courted the prince and Saudi money as the oil-rich kingdom began opening up its entertainment market. Endeavor returned a $400 million investment from the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund. A Saudi fund remains an investor in Penske Media Corp., Variety’s parent company.
After initially denying any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, Saudi Arabia eventually acknowledged that its operatives were responsible for the journalist’s death. But Saudi officials insist that it was a “rogue operation” not authorized by the government.
Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have concluded that bin Salman ordered the killing. U.S. officials say that, in an intercepted phone call, a member of the assassination team told one of the prince’s aides to “tell your boss” that the mission had been accomplished.
“Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances,” the new U.N. report, by special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, said. It added: “Every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched.”
Callamard called for targeted sanctions on those believed responsible for Khashoggi’s killing, which “ought also to include the crown prince and his personal assets abroad, until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution.”
Eleven people are being tried in secret in Saudi Arabia in connection with the killing, but the U.N. report said that those proceedings were flawed and should be suspended. The report also faulted the investigations conducted by both Turkey and Saudi Arabia into Khashoggi’s death.