UN confirms report on Saudi threat against Khashoggi investigator

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Saudi official reportedly made the threat against Agnes Callamard during a meeting with UN officials in Geneva.

The UN human rights office confirmed on Wednesday the accuracy of published remarks by the independent expert who led an investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi alleging that a senior Saudi official had made a threat against her.

The Guardian newspaper on Tuesday quoted Agnes Callamard, the UN expert on summary killings, as saying a Saudi official had threatened she would be “taken care of” if she was not reined in following her investigation into the journalist’s murder.

Saudi officials did not respond to a request for comment. Callamard did not respond when contacted by the Reuters news agency.

“We confirm that the details in the Guardian story about the threat aimed at Agnes Callamard are accurate,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in an email reply to Reuters.

The UN human rights office had informed Callamard about the threat in addition to briefing UN security and authorities, he added.

Callamard told the Guardian the threat was conveyed in a January 2020 meeting between Saudi and UN officials in Geneva. She said she was told of the incident by a UN colleague, the newspaper reported.

Callamard led a UN investigation into the October 2018 killing of Khashoggi by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

‘A death threat’

She issued a report in 2019 concluding there was “credible evidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and senior Saudi officials were responsible for killing the Washington Post newspaper journalist and US resident.

She subsequently called for sanctions against the assets of the prince, also known as MBS, and a limit to his international engagement.

The prince denies any involvement in the killing but has said he bears ultimate responsibility because it happened under his watch.

The alleged threat was made during a meeting between Geneva-based Saudi diplomats, a visiting Saudi delegation and UN officials, the Guardian reported.

After the Saudi side criticised Callamard’s work in the case, the newspaper reported, one senior Saudi official said he had spoken to people prepared to “take care of her.”

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has been accused of ordering the killing of Khashoggi in 2018 during the administration of then-US President Donald Trump [Saudi Royal Court/Reuters]“A death threat. That was how it was understood,” Callamard was cited as saying.

“People that were present, and also subsequently, made it clear to the Saudi delegation that this was absolutely inappropriate.”

Callamard has criticised a Saudi court’s ruling in September to jail eight people for up to 20 years for the murder, accusing the kingdom of making a “mockery of justice” by not punishing more senior officials.

US President Joe Biden’s administration, which has taken a tougher stance on Saudi’s human rights record, last month released an intelligence report that said MBS approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi.

The Saudi government rejected the findings and reiterated that the murder was a heinous crime by a rogue group.

Callamard, whose replacement was announced on Wednesday, is taking up a new post as the secretary-general of Amnesty International.

In her resignation letter from her UN post, Callamard wrote that the work to investigate human rights abuses is “more important than ever, as our world grapples with pandemics, conflict, climate crisis and accelerating technological change”.

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