The world’s worst misgivings are now confirmed.
The report of the United Nations, crafted by Agnes Callamard, the special rapporteur, is a comprehensively hideous account of the circumstances of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the Saudi journalist, who was based in Washington, has been referred to as a “sacrificial animal” in the context of the dismemberment of his body. Thus did man’s inhumanity to man assume a horrific dimension, and in response to the imprimatur of a section of royalty.
The other damning conclusion is the reference to the role of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) despite the desert kingdom’s insistence that Khashoggi’s killing was a “rogue” operation. The ‘rogue’ has now been identified or nearly so. Ms Callamard’s report is emphatic on the point that there is “credible evidence” that he and other senior officials are liable for the killing.
In the perspective of the comity of nations, the credibility of the palace in Riyadh, now increasingly fractious, has plummeted to the point of a collective disgrace. It has rendered still more uncertain the succession of MBS to the throne.
Though the octagenarian King has been muted in his response, his son’s succession has come under a cloud ever since the assassination. Indeed, there have been reports of a rift between the King and heir apparent. For all the wealth generated by petro-dollars, the ambience of the palace is strangely that of a Mughal court.
A not dissimilar conclusion, it would be pertinent to recall, was also reached by the CIA. “One way to honour Khashoggi is to celebrate his life. Another is to recognise the lessons of his death” is the sum and substance of the UN’s indictment. The brutality of the killing has alienated Saudi Arabia’s business and diplomatic allies, who for close to a year have maintained a distance between themselves and the feisty Crown Prince.
Some of the top executives who, in the aftermath of the killing had pulled out of the Crown Prince’s “Davos in the Desert” gathering, have attended another financial conference in Riyadh, though their equation with the kingdom is now less than cordial. Ever so economical with the truth, the kingdom had announced some months ago that it would try 11 suspects for the murder.
The withers of Mohammad bin Salman remain unwrung; he doesn’t appear chastened. The almost incredible insensitivity is manifest across the kingdom. Markedly, Ms Callamard’s report makes it clear that the royalty in Riyadh must answer for this murder, with the profound supplementary that the responsibility to safeguard human rights also devolves on foreign businesses and governments.
She has underlinedthe need for a moratorium on the sale of surveillance tools to SaudiArabia and other countries until the exporting nations are confident of how they will be used. It is a lethal cocktail of the aversion to objective criticism ~ as reported by Khasoggi in The Washington Post ~ sale of armaments and also, of course, palace intrigue.