A UN human rights expert investigating the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is calling on Western governments, including Canada, to impose tougher sanctions on high-ranking Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In the 101-page report by Agnes Callamard, probing the brutal killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, the UN investigator said the sanctions currently imposed by Canada, the U.S. and some EU countries don’t go far enough and should directly target bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
“The individuals sanctioned in the aftermath of the execution of Mr. Khashoggi are relatively middle to low-level officials,” Callamard wrote. “In view of the credible evidence into the responsibilities of the Crown Prince for his murder, such sanctions ought also to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets abroad.”
Last November, the Trudeau government imposed sanctions against 17 Saudis, freezing individual assets and rendering them inadmissible to Canada.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland repeated calls for a “full, international independent investigation” but did not commit to further sanctions.
“This report details the gravely concerning circumstances surrounding Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” Freeland said in a statement. “The explanations provided by Saudi Arabia to date are insufficient.”
“Those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder must be held to account and must face justice.”
Callamard also called on the United Nations Secretary General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to begin criminal investigations into what was described as a “premeditated execution.”
“Mr. Khashoggi’s killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible,” she wrote. “There is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s.”
The report revealed chilling details about the killing including a transcript of recordings from inside the consulate, including a conversation between the killers as they waited for their “sacrificial lamb.”
At one point, a Saudi autopsy specialist reassured the group of agents that dismembering the body would “be easy.”
“Joints will be separated. It is not a problem. The body is heavy,” he said. “If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them.”
In an exchange between Khashoggi and an agent, Khashoggi is asked to send his son a mobile text message.
“What should I say? See you soon? I can’t say kidnapping,” Khashoggi responds.
“Cut it short,” the agent says. “Take off your jacket.”
“How could this happen in an embassy?” Khashoggi responds. “I will not write anything.”
The report says the rest of the recordings contain sounds of movement, heavy panting and plastic sheets being wrapped.
Turkish investigators believe that Khashoggi was injected with a sedative, suffocated with a plastic bag and then dismembered. His remains were taken to the Consular General’s Residence.
Other highlights from the report include evidence that Saudi officials carried out an extensive cover-up of the murder, which consisted of scrubbing down rooms, blocking investigators and possibly burning evidence.
The destruction of evidence and the active role of the Saudi consul general in organizing the operation suggested that the killing and cover-up were authorized at the highest levels of the Saudi royal court, the report said.
Saudi Arabia originally denied any involvement in the Khashoggi murder claiming that he had left the embassy alive. They later changed their story blaming it on the actions of rogue agents.
Eleven Saudis are currently on trial for the murder, including five who face the death penalty, but the proceedings have not been made public.
The Khashoggi killing and Saudi’s involvement in the ongoing Yemen civil war have led to growing tensions between the Kingdom and the West.
On Thursday, U.S. senators voted to block President Trump’s Saudi arms deal, setting up a possible veto from Trump.
In the EU, a U.K. court ruled that a proposed British deal to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia was unlawful, and Germany has temporarily halted arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, the Trudeau government has allowed a $15-billion deal to sell light-armoured vehicles and other military equipment to the Saudi government.