A top Saudi official threatened to have independent United Nations investigator Agnes Callamard “taken care of” due to her report into the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Istanbul consulate in 2018.
In an interview with the Guardian, Callamard said that a senior Saudi official made multiple death threats during a meeting with other senior U.N. officials in Geneva. The outgoing special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings said her colleagues warned her about threats in January 2020. Saudi officials twice threatened to "take care" of Callamar if she was not reined in by the U.N., which was perceived by her colleagues in Geneva as a "death threat."
"That was how it was understood," she told Guardian.
The threats were made during a “high-level” meeting between Geneva-based Saudi diplomats, visiting Saudi officials and U.N. officials. Callamard told Guardian that Saudis criticized her investigation, expressing anger and discontentment. She said a senior Saudi Arabian visiting official allegedly said he received phone calls from people who were willing to "take care of her."
When U.N. officials raised alarm over the remarks, other Saudis present tried to reassure them that the comment should not be taken seriously. Although after the Saudi group had left the room, Callamard was told that senior Saudi officials reiterated the threats to the U.N. officials.
“It was reported to me at the time and it was one occasion where the United Nations was actually very strong on that issue. People that were present, and also subsequently, made it clear to the Saudi delegation that this was absolutely inappropriate and that there was an expectation that this should not go further,” Callamard said. “You know, those threats don’t work on me. Well, I don’t want to call for more threats. But I have to do what I have to do. It didn’t stop me from acting in a way which I think is the right thing to do,” she said.
Callamard, a French citizen and human rights expert who will assume her new position as secretary-general of Amnesty International this month, was the first official to publicly probe and publish a detailed report of the 2018 killing of Khashoggi. Her 100-page report, which was published in 2019, highlighted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's (MBS) role in the journalist's killing and concluded that the evidence was "credible."
Since then, an intelligence report conducted by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), assessed that MBS approved the murder of Khashoggi, whose Washington Post column had criticized the crown prince’s policies.
"We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in the report posted on its website.
"We base this assessment on the Crown Prince's control of decisionmaking in the kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman's protective detail in the operation, and the crown prince's support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi," it added.
"Since 2017, the crown prince has had absolute control of the kingdom's security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the crown prince's authorization," the report said.
"The crown prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him," it added.
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