GENEVA: There is "credible evidence" linking Saudi Arabia's crown prince to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October, an independent UN rights expert said on Wednesday (Jun 19), calling for an international investigation.
In a fresh report, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard said she had "determined that there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials' individual liability, including the Crown Prince's."
The report stressed that "no conclusion is made as to guilt. The only conclusion made is that there is credible evidence meriting further investigation, by a proper authority, as to whether the threshold of criminal responsibility has been met."
Callamard said for instance that she had found evidence that "Khashoggi was himself fully aware of the powers held by the Crown Prince, and fearful of him."
Khashoggi, a critic of the prince and a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 where he was to receive papers ahead of his wedding.
His body was dismembered and removed from the building, Saudi prosecutors have said, and his remains have not been found.
Riyadh initially said it had no knowledge of his fate, but later blamed the murder on rogue agents.
Saudi prosecutors have absolved the crown prince and said around two dozen people implicated in the murder are in custody, with death penalties sought against five men.
"It is the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur that Mr Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law," Callamard said in her report based on a six-month investigation.
"Indeed, this human rights inquiry has shown that there is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the Crown Prince demanding further investigation," she added.
Callamard has been conducting what she has described as "an independent human rights inquiry" into Khashoggi's death.
UN special rapporteurs are also independent and do not speak for the world body.
In Wednesday's report she said she found that the probes conducted so far by Saudi Arabia and Turkey had "failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths."
She urged UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to launch an official international criminal investigation into the case, which she said would make it possible to "build-up strong files on each of the alleged perpetrators and identify mechanisms for formal accountability, such as an ad hoc or hybrid tribunal."
Callamard called for countries to widen sanctions to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets, until and unless he can prove he has no responsibility.
She also called on the FBI in the United States, where Khashoggi was a resident, to open an investigation into the case, if it has not already done so, "and pursue criminal prosecutions within the United States, as appropriate."
Callamard went to Turkey earlier this year with a team of forensic and legal experts and said she received evidence from Turkish authorities. For her investigation, she said that, among other things, she had viewed CCTV footage from inside the consulate of the killing itself.
The report identified by name the 15 people she said were part of the mission to kill Khashoggi, and suggested that many of them were not on the list of 11 unnamed suspects facing a closed-door trial over the murder.
Wednesday's report also found that there was evidence that "Saudi Arabia deliberately used consular immunity to stall Turkey's investigations until the crime scene could be thoroughly cleaned."
"In view of my concerns regarding the fairness of the trial of the 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia, I call for the suspension of the trial," she said in the report.
There was no immediate reaction from Riyadh, which was sent the 100-page report in advance - but the kingdom has regularly denied accusations that the prince was involved.