Rights group: Khashoggi killing exposes Saudi abuse

Published 19.01.2019 00:00
Updated 19.01.2019 12:27

The killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October is putting other Saudi "abuses" in the spotlight, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.

The World Report 2019 by the New York-based rights group details the Saudi-led coalition attacks in Yemen that it said may amount to war crimes as well as repression of dissidents and human rights activists at home.

"The [Jamal] Khashoggi murder has not only wrecked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reputation but has exposed a pattern of lawless behavior by [the] Saudi leadership," said Michael Page, HRW's deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

"If Saudi Arabia has any hope of rehabilitating its tattered image, the authorities should immediately release everyone they've locked away merely for their peaceful criticism," he added.

Saudi Arabia has committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law as the leader of a coalition taking part in military operations against the Houthis in Yemen, said the report, citing the attack on a wedding last April that killed 22 and wounded more than 50.

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and several of its Arab allies have waged a massive military campaign against Yemen's Houthi rebel group, which overran much of the country a year earlier.

The conflict has destroyed much of Yemen's basic infrastructure, including water and sanitation systems, prompting the U.N. to describe the situation as one of "the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times."

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018.

The kingdom initially denied any role in Khashoggi's disappearance before acknowledging that he was murdered inside the consulate but passed the buck to rogue agents, while insisting that the crown prince had no prior knowledge of the matter, an explanation far from convincing for many.

Previously, the kingdom's attorney general sought the death penalty for five of the 11 defendants charged with the murder of Khashoggi as their high-profile trial opened in Riyadh. All 11 accused were present with their lawyers at the opening hearing in the capital, according to a statement by Attorney General Saud al-Mujeb carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The statement added that the prosecution demanded death sentences for five suspects, adding that the interrogation of the suspects continues.

Ankara has used every means available to bring those responsible to justice, maintaining international pressure. Turkish officials previously said they shared evidence with Saudi Arabia and other nations about Khashoggi's killing and repeatedly called for the suspects to be extradited to Turkey, where the crime was committed. Turkey has also repeatedly said it would demand a probe into the incident from the U.N.

Despite more than 100 days passing since the killing, Riyadh remains apprehensive about revealing new information regarding the murder.

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