In a 100-page report released today, Agnès Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur, examines the circumstances surrounding Saudi journalist, Khashoggi, who was last seen alive entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey last October. Callamard refers to Kashoggi’s death as a “deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing,” when citing graphic audio recordings acquired from Turkish intelligence, according to UN report. The Special Rapporteur asserts that, “Saudi high-level officials planned, oversaw and/or endorsed the mission,” stating further that the 15 Saudi state agents “acted under cover of their official status and used State means to execute Mr. Khashoggi”. Callamard calls Khashoggi’s murder an international crime, claiming that it breaks, at the very least, 6 international laws, and, as such, appealed to the Secretary-General, among others, for an “international follow-up criminal investigation.”
However, during a press briefing, when asked for the Secretary General’s response to the Special Rapporteur’s request, spokesman for the Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric, responded that the Secretary-General “would give full consideration to the recommendations regarding the protection of journalists.” He further stated that the Secretary-General “does not have the power or the authority to launch criminal investigations without a mandate from a competent inter-governmental body. Power and authority to do that lies with member states. If a full and effective criminal investigation is not conducted by member states, the only way to effectively pursue an investigation, requiring the cooperation of relevant member states, would be through a resolution of the Security Council under the appropriate Charter provisions.”
Needless to say, many journalists found this response unsatisfactory, including James Bays of Al Jazeera. He began by questioning Spokesman Dujarric, the Secretary-General, about the source of his information, specifically asking if it had been acquired from legal counsel. The Special Rapporteur, he pointed out, is an “eminent legal expert,” and since there were other lawyers who agreed with the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions, it was believed that the Secretary-General should have the power to comply with her appeal. However, after Dujarric had still not given a substantial answer, Bays followed up his questioning providing prior examples of circumstances where past Secretary-Generals have acted in similar situations. Bays began by pointing out the UN General Assembly resolution 43/5, which states, “the Secretary-General should, where appropriate, consider making full use of fact-finding capabilities, including with consent of the host states, sending a representative or fact-finding mission to areas where a dispute or situation exists.” Bays goes on to say that, upon visiting the UN library online, one can find a list of all international commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions and who has mandated them. Furthermore, according to his findings, “going back to 1993, the Secretary-General has set up international missions of inquiry seven times, only three of those …were at the request of a member state.” Still unable to give a satisfactory answer, Dujarric moved on.
Later on, during the press briefing, another journalist asked Spokesman Dujarric about the intended actions of the Secretary-General, this time proposing another route that the Secretary-General could take. He asked if the Secretary General, “planned to invoke article 99 and bring it to the Security Council, asking for the mandate.” However, once again we came up short with a concrete answer.
We asked Spokesman Dujarric what were the Secretary-General’s thoughts about the investigation that the Saudi authority were conducting in Saudi Arabia, and if it should still continue after this report accused their own high officials as the perpetrators. Dujarric responded that the Saudi government will do as they want. The Special Rapporteur has asked that this trial be made public, and suggested that there is need of transparency in order to insure that international standards are being followed.
It is yet to be seen if the Secretary-General will take any action in the murder of Khashoggi or if the trial of his perpetrators will be carried out in accordance with international standards.