An important development in the Jamal Khashoggi murder case took place last week when the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial and Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard, following an investigation, said all evidence indicates that Khashoggi was a victim of a brutal, premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by Saudi officials.
Contrary to the claims of the kingdom, Callamard pointed out that high-ranking officials were responsible for the murder and therefore demanded access to Saudi Arabia.
The U.N. report, prepared by Callamard, is crucial because it shows Turkey's efforts to investigate the murder. Callamard and her team saw firsthand how far Turkey intended to go, but she confirmed that "inadequate time and access was granted to Turkish investigators to conduct an efficient crime scene examination."
What will happen now as Callamard plans to submit a final report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June?
Turkey wants Saudi Arabia to extradite those accused of carrying out the murder so they can appear before a Turkish court. Reaction from the U.S., on the other hand, would be important. U.S. intelligence agencies believe Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the operation to kill Khashoggi. They said that Khashoggi's body was dismembered and disposed of at an unknown location. But Riyadh denies any involvement by the crown prince.
The sad and unfortunate obstacle to forcing Saudi Arabia to admit its involvement in the killing is U.S. President Donald Trump himself. The Trump administration has refused to respond to a request from Congress to provide a report determining the killers of Khashoggi. It is the president himself who remains as a barrier in the investigation.
Trump declined to meet a Friday deadline to report to the U.S. Senate on whether the White House believes the Saudi crown prince ordered the killing. A group of Senators brought up the Magnitsky Act in October, which required the president to investigate and determine if a foreign person is responsible for Khashoggi's death within 120 days. But that 120-day period ended on Friday and there is no report from the White House yet.
The Trump administration has pointed to 17 Saudi officials for their involvement in the murder, including two top aides to the crown prince but they don't want to go further. Meanwhile, Trump insists that bilateral relations are more important than accountability for the murder.
In this case, will the U.N. report change anything? If the U.S. keeps backing MBS, it won't do much. But the report will make two things official: First, Turkey is the only key actor showing a real effort to find those responsible. Secondly, international bodies like the U.N. cannot implement policy changes if the U.S. is not willing to cooperate. I think that is a very sad case that exposes the imbalance and injustice in the world.