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Khashoggi’s brutal murder was a ‘state killing,’ special rapporteur says

The brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey's Saudi consulate last October changed Saudi Arabia’s global image and tainted its relationship with the U.S. Now, a United Nations panel has released a report detailing how Khashoggi was killed and who knew about it. Nick Schifrin talks to the report’s author, Agnes Callamard, about why the "premeditated" crime wasn't a rogue operation.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Turkey has had implications on U.S. policy and the kingdom's reputation.

    As Nick Schifrin reports, today, the U.N. released new details about how Khashoggi was killed and how the kingdom has responded.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The report describes how Jamal Khashoggi died and was dismembered by Saudi officials.

    The U.S. has imposed sanctions on those officials and endorsed Saudi Arabia's trials of what the kingdom calls — quote — "a rogue operation" without the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    Today, a State Department official said: "We are determined to press for accountability for every person who was responsible."

    Also today, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs tweeted: "The report contains clear contradictions and baseless allegations, which challenges its credibility."

    Before that criticism, I interviewed the report's author, U.N. Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard.

    Agnes Callamard, welcome to the "NewsHour."

    You quote Saudi officials inside the Istanbul Consulate who are waiting for Jamal Khashoggi's arrival. One of them, a Saudi forensic doctor, says "Joints will be separated. If we take plastic bags and cut into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them."

    At the end, another Saudi official asks whether — quote — "the sacrificial animal" had arrived.

    That seems to suggest this was premeditated.

  • Agnes Callamard:

    There is very little doubt that murder was premeditated.

    You have already identified the presence of a forensic doctor in the team of 15 Saudi officials. An hour before Mr. Khashoggi was actually killed, they were discussing the dismemberment of his body.

    So, killing was planned, and killing was premeditated. What I could not ascertain was whether or not killing was the first objective, or whether they were also considering kidnapping, with killing a second option in case kidnapping failed.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    On the other hand, you quote a Saudi official talking to Khashoggi during the incident — quote — "At the end, we will take you back to Saudi Arabia. And if you don't help us, you know what will happen at the end."

    Could their intention have been to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia?

  • Agnes Callamard:

    There were a couple of minutes where they entertained with Mr. Khashoggi the idea of him going back.

    There were a couple of sentences related to him returning, but not sufficient, in my opinion, to conclude that, convincingly, it was the primary objective.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Details that you write about, about Khashoggi was likely injected and dismembered are incredibly difficult to read.

    The recordings that you quote have not been made public. What do you want people to know about them?

  • Agnes Callamard:

    I think the first aspect of the recording I want to communicate to people is the way Mr. Khashoggi increasingly became aware that his life was in danger.

    So, when he enters the consulate, the first words are words of surprise because there are people there that he wasn't expecting to find, and progressively going to a state of fear.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    There is, of course, the big question of whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered this killing. And you write: "There is credible evidence warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials' individual liability, including the crown prince's."

    Do you believe Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered this murder, or do you believe what Saudi officials say, that it was a rogue operation?

  • Agnes Callamard:

    First, there is no doubt in my mind that this crime cannot qualify as a so-called rogue operation. I want to really insist upon the fact that this was a state killing.

    Every pieces of evidence, every element related to the circumstances of the killing, its location, its planning, how people arrived, how the team arrived in Istanbul, the use of a private jet with diplomatic clearance, the location of the crime in the consulate, the pretense of providing a governmental service to Mr. Khashoggi to trap him back in the consulate, the fact that the consul used his authorities to ensure that there were no employees present at the time of the killings, all of that and far more demonstrate that the state is responsible for the killing.

    This is simply not a rogue operation. I cannot conclude who has ordered the crime on the basis of what I have collected. What I can conclude is that there is sufficient evidence requiring for us to act with due diligence, and to undertake the criminal investigation into individual liability.

    I think it is important to understand that the responsibility of high-level officials, such as the crown prince, are not solely derived from them or him ordering the crime. There are a range of other actions that lead to criminal liability on his part.

    For instance, did he or others directly or indirectly incite the crime? Did he or others knew about the crime, but failed to take action to prevent it?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The Saudis say their trials will deliver justice. What's your response to that?

  • Agnes Callamard:

    No, the trial under the current conditions will not deliver justice. It's held behind closed door. The identity of those on trial have not been revealed. The identity of the charges has not been revealed.

    This is a crime of an international nature, which requires transparency which, particularly and especially, demands that all fair trial guarantees be implemented and fulfilled, which is far from being the case at the moment.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur, thank you very much.

  • Agnes Callamard:

    OK. Thank you very much.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, tonight, the Saudi government released a statement that questioned the special rapporteur's impartiality and — quote — "reserved the right to take legal action to respond to the report."

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