Saudi Arabia calls allegation against MBS in UN’s Khashoggi report as baseless

Riyadh: A Saudi Arabian Minister has slammed a UN special rapporteur’s report claiming that there was credible evidence that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other high-level officials were individually liable for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the allegations were baseless.

Reacting to the report by UN extrajudicial executions investigator Agnes Callamard, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Member of the Cabinet Adel Al-Jubeir told Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday that it “regrettably, presented many unfounded accusations, including the violation of a number of international conventions, and is totally unacceptable to the leadership of the Kingdom”.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the Saudi Crown Prince, was killed and reportedly dismembered in October 2018 at the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul by a team of 15 agents sent from Riyadh. His body has not been found till now.

While Riyadh initially denied any knowledge of the incident, Saudi officials later claimed that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to the Crown Prince’s inner circle, were responsible for the journalist’s death.

The murder caused international outrage and provoked condemnation of the 33-year-old Crown Prince, also known as “MBS”. Saudi authorities, however, insist they were not acting on the Crown Prince’s orders.

In a 101-page report into Khashoggi’s murder, Callamard urged the UN to “demand” a follow-up criminal investigation.

The Minister, meanwhile told the Saudi Press Agency that “the Kingdom, as already announced, has begun to take the necessary measures to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice”.

“Saudi Arabia, while affirming its deep commitment to and respect for international conventions and laws and its rejection of all the unjustified violations and allegations contained in the report, reserves the right to take legal action to respond to them,” he added.

Al-Jubeir said that the report was intended to “undermine the Kingdom and its leadership” and that it lacked credibility.

“The false allegations contained in the report are based on preconceived ideas and positions of Callamard regarding the Kingdom.”

The Minister added that Saudi Arabia “will never accept any attempt to harm its sovereignty and that it categorically rejects any attempt to derail this issue (Khashoggi’s murder) or any attempt to influence it in any way”.

Callamard however, did not make any conclusions on the guilt of the Saudi Crown Prince. Instead, she said that there was “credible evidence meriting further investigation by a proper authority” as to whether the “threshold of criminal responsibility has been met”.

The special rapporteur said it was her conclusion that Khashoggi was “the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution” and an “extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law”.