UN report on the killing of Khashoggi: Saudi Crown Prince among those implicated

The UN report about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul), prepared by the Special Rapporteur to the UN’s Human Rights Council, is now online. You can see it by clicking on the screenshot below, where you can also download a Microsoft Word version.


The report considers the killing an an “extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible. His attempted kidnapping would also constitute a violation under international human rights law.”

I haven’t read the report in detail, but have looked it over, and it’s an extraordinarily thorough reconstruction of how Khashoggi was murdered (anesthetized or injected and then dismembered, presumably after death), partly based on recordings from inside the consulate. The comings and goings of the entire “murder team”, as well the departure of the van presumably containing Khashoggi’s plastic wrapped body, are documented in detail. The conclusion is that there is no way this could have been prepared and carried out without approval at the highest levels of the Saudi government.

The smoking gun for many people will be the report’s clear conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was involved. This is from the executive summary (my emphasis):

State Responsibilities

  1. Khashoggi’s killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible. His attempted kidnapping would also constitute a violation under international human rights law. From the perspective of international human rights law, State responsibility is not a question of, for example, which of the State officials ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s death; whether one or more ordered a kidnapping that was botched and then became an accidental killing; or whether the officers acted on their own initiative or ultra vires.
  2. The killing of Mr. Khashoggi further constituted a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (thereafter VCCR) and of the prohibition against the extra-territorial use of force in time of peace (customary law and UN Charter). In killing a journalist, the State of Saudi Arabia also committed an act inconsistent with a core tenet of the United Nations, the protection of freedom of expression. As such, it can be credibly argued that it used force extra-territorially in a manner “inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
  3. Further, the circumstances of the killing of Mr. Khashoggi may constitute an act of torture under the terms of the Convention Against Torture, ratified by Saudi Arabia. Finally, the killing of Mr. Khashoggi may also constitute to this date an enforced disappearance since the location of his remains has not been established.

Individual liability

  1. The Special Rapporteur has determined that there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s. She warns against a disproportionate emphasis on identifying who ordered the crime, pointing out that the search for justice and accountability is not singularly dependent on finding a smoking gun and the person holding it. The search is also, if not primarily, about identifying those who, in the context of the commission of a violation, have abused, or failed to fulfill, the responsibilities of their positions of authority.

If you don’t want to read the report, the New York Times has a good summary of it (click on screenshot below)

The Times report includes these “key takeaways”:

• Saudi officials carried out an extensive cover-up of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing in a Saudi consulate in October, 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 in coordination with officials in Riyadh suggest that the killing and cover-up were authorized at the highest levels of the Saudi royal court.

• The report presents a new challenge to President Trump, who has embraced the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, as a pivotal ally and sought to avoid blaming him for directing the killing.

Two other issues. First, the report calls for criminal investigations by not only the UN (who could have murderers tried at the UN’s International Court of Justice in the Hague), but also by the FBI, since Khashoggi was a permanent resident of the U.S.

And that puts this in the lap of “President” Trump, who has repeatedly waffled verbally about whether the Crown Prince was involved in this matter. He also vetoed an April measure, passed by both the House and the Senate, ending American assistance to Saudi’s war in Yemen as well as curtailing Trump’s war powers. Note, too, that yesterday the Republican-controlled Senate voted to block the sale of billions of dollars of arms to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a measure Trump has vowed to veto. There are not enough votes in Congress to overturn such a veto.

The rift about Saudi Arabia between a Congress acting for once in a bipartisan manner and “President” Trump is perhaps the clearest “check and balance” we have between the legislative and executive bodies in this administration. Trump will win, because it takes a 2/3 vote in both houses of Congress to overturn such a veto, and those votes aren’t there.

But Congress is correct here, and their bipartisanship is rare but refreshing. Trump has a penchant for courting thugs and dictators, and this is but one example. Saudi Arabia has shown itself to be a rogue state, and the U.S. should not be sending it arms, much less giving it any kind of break. Let Trump exercise his veto, and let’s see what kind of excuses the moron makes to let Saudi Arabia off the hook.

h/t: Ken


  1. rickflick
    Posted June 21, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    My suspicions are confirmed. I was always worried the Khashoggi case would be forgotten in a few weeks after the event, never to be spoken of again.

  2. Mark R.
    Posted June 21, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Trump would change his stance or stall the arms sale if MbS came out and freely admitted he ordered the execution. Trump respects rulers who kill their subjects or opponents…not only does he respect them, he’s also jealous of them.

    • eric
      Posted June 21, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I’d disagree with the NYT’s third point that his presents ‘a new challenge’ for Trump. Its no challenge; first, he’ll ignore it. Then, some GOP members will join with Dems to pass more bills trying to prevent arms sales or military support of Saudi. Third, Trump will veto that bill. And the denoument to these actions will be watching all those same GOPers who oppose Trump on this issue then sweep the entire episode under the rug, as the 2020 election comes closer, as they’re only really willing to stand up for Kashoggi and human rights when it doesn’t impact their reelection chances.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 21, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    No respect for human rights, no respect for international law, no respect for the rule of law itself, no respect for the traditions and norms of decency and humanity and fair play that this nation has always held up as its ideals (even if we’ve sometimes fallen short in the praxis) — such are the depths to which the United States of America has fallen under the Trump administration.

    • Mark R.
      Posted June 21, 2019 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Well said. I’d also like to add: no respect for the truth.

      • zetopan
        Posted June 25, 2019 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

        “… no respect for the truth.”

        That last word lacks even any comprehension within the Trump clan.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 21, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink


    • BJ
      Posted June 21, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      Did we really have such things when it came to foreign relations under other administrations? We’ve always maintained alliances with repressive regimes and dictators because not doing so would leave a power vacuum filled by others, because it ultimately helps us protect others and ourselves in the long run, and because other options are often worse. Completely pulling support from Saudi Arabia would be a great way to further destabilize the Middle East and increase Iranian influence.

      Right now, there are five major powers in the Middle East and three basic regional power blocs. Many (if not most, depending on your definitions) of the countries in the ME have nasty regimes, governments, and/or leaders. Saudi Arabia, oddly enough, has become part of the coalition whose interests align with Israel.

      Not that Israel is the main point. The main point is our strategy in the Middle East and maintaining an overall balance of power not just for our sake, but for the sake of the entire region. Of course, we should condemn the murder of Khashoggi and the war in Yemen, and make some token reprisals in the form of withholding some military support from SA, but that’s about all we can do. We cannot break off our alliance with SA, as our alliance is one of the major factors that make SA one of the biggest powers in the region. It’s simply not an option. Breaking our alliance with them means giving that alliance to someone else, and we then lose yet another ally in the region and end up further destabilizing it.

      If the Saudi/Egyptian/Jordanian/Israeli bloc falls apart, Iran will become the Middle East’s only true superpower, allied with Russia (as well as others, like Syria and Yemen), and will gain further partners in its coalition. If we allow the current balance of power that’s being maintained to fall apart by allowing Saudi Arabia to continue spiraling, the ME will be even more precarious than it already is. And do note that SA is already on thinner ice than it was even just a few years ago, as their only end game in Yemen won’t look good for them (the most likely scenario is that, when they finally pull out because they can’t win there, the Houthis will control the country, which will be another huge win for the Iranian bloc). Meanwhile, the most likely ending in Syria is that Turkey ends up with great influence over the northwest and Assad controls the south of the country — a situation that would also leave the US out completely and give Iranian influence another enormous boost, as Iran and Turkey have been making nice for quite some time now and have a joint interest when it comes to the Kurds.

      People talk about these things as if they’re so simple, but they’re not. Middle East policy is just as complicated as South American policy was during the Cold War, if not more so, as the alliances aren’t clearly between one side and one other.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 21, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        We’ve never before had a president with a dilettantish son-in-law and chief advisor about whom the Saudi Crown prince has bragged is “in his pocket.”

        And we’ve never before had a president — due to his refusal to release his tax returns and related financial information, and due to his refusal (unlike every modern president before him) to place his assets in a blind trust — about whom this nation has no earthly idea what his foreign entanglements and conflicts of interest are.

        Dick Nixon, as worthless a cur as he was in so many ways, we could at least be confident wasn’t putting his own private financial interests before the nation’s. Donald Trump, we cannot.

        • BJ
          Posted June 21, 2019 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

          I see what you’re saying, but (1) I think we did have a President (and Vice President who had a large role in foreign policy) who very much may have had interests in SA oil during the W. administration, and (2) none of what you said really changes anything for me. At the end of the day, the policy outcome is still the same, and I still think your original statement was untrue. The fact that the Trump’s might have other interests in the region does not somehow absolve previous administrations of the exact same behavior.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted June 21, 2019 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

            Which “original statement” do you deem “untrue”?

            The whole Bush family, and Dick Cheney, were far too chummy with Saudi Arabia for my tastes. But Dubya, Poppy, and Cheney all disclosed their tax returns to the US public and put their assets in a blind trust while serving in office.

            Donald Trump has done nothing of the sort. American citizens have essentially no idea what his conflicts of interest or foreign entanglements may be. And what little we do know should concern us all. Before taking office, Trump bragged that he’d made hundreds of millions of dollars off Saudi Arabia.

            Much worse, as a candidate for the highest office in this land, Donald Trump was negotiating with Russia, a hostile foreign power, to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, which would have been the biggest real-estate deal of Trump’s life, one that stood to net him approximately $300 million. At the same time, on the campaign trail, Trump was advocating for improved relations with Russia and for lifting the crippling Magnitsky Act sanctions.

            Indeed, the proposed Trump Tower Moscow deal would have required the lifting of those sanctions, since it was to be financed by a sanctioned Russian bank. On top of that, Trump’s agents in the deal were offering a $50 million dollar bribe, in the form of a penthouse apartment in the proposed tower, to Vladimir Putin to facilitate the deal, a payment that would have constituted a clear violation of the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. On on top of it all, Trump was lying through his teeth to the American people, claiming he had no pending deals with Russia, had never had any pending deals with Russia, had no interest in ever doing any deals in Russia.

            Now, let us consider his completely unqualified son-in-law and chief adviser, Jared Kushner — for whom, as you may recall, Donald Trump granted a top-secret, sensitive-compartmentalized-information security clearance, over the objections of his own top national-security and intelligence advisers. At the time Kushner assumed his position in the White House, his family had a billion dollar white elephant real estate deal at 666 Fifth Avenue breathing down their neck. The Kushner family sought re-financing for this building from the government of Qatar, a close US ally and home to a crucial American airbase.

            Qatar took a pass, finding the requested loan too risky. Thereafter, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed a blockade on Qatar. Despite the crucial American interests in Qatar, the Trump administration sided with SA and UAE in support of this blockade. Subsequently, Brookfield Property Partners, a financial company in which Qatar holds a substantial stake, made the needed loan to the Kushner family to save the 666 Fifth Avenue property. Thereafter, the Trump administration pressured Saudi Arabia to lift the Qatar blockade.

            Such conduct is unprecedented in modern American presidential history. It is stomach-churning, and should be of grave to concern to all patriotic Americans.

            • rickflick
              Posted June 21, 2019 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

              That reads like the scenario of a Hollywood blockbuster staring – whoever the latest James Bond-type character is. I’m sure that in the next 5 years, there will be many films focusing on one aspect of DT’s corrupt 4-year presidency or another.

            • BJ
              Posted June 21, 2019 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

              Almost everything you just listed is ancillary to your original statement. This post is about Saudi Arabia, and I think it’s natural that your original comment is in reference to Trump’s refusal to strongly condemn SA and willingness to veto bills that, for example, stop the sale of certain arms to them. Is that not correct?

              So, this was your comment: “No respect for human rights, no respect for international law, no respect for the rule of law itself, no respect for the traditions and norms of decency and humanity and fair play that this nation has always held up as its ideals (even if we’ve sometimes fallen short in the praxis) — such are the depths to which the United States of America has fallen…”

              What administration since 1900 has upheld these ideals in all areas? Can you name any administration during the course of the Cold War that never backed a human rights-violating regime (“respect for human rights”), that never illegally spied on both allies and enemies (“respect for international law”)? If not, then those are part of the “traditions and norms of decency and humanity and fair play that this nation has always held up as its ideals,” are they not?

              You can say that Trump is worse for many, many, many other reasons (which you just did), but when it comes to Saudi Arabia — which I think it was safe to assume was the context within which you made your original comment, considering the post Jerry made here — Trump’s policies are perfectly in line with how the US has acted, at the very least since the beginning of the Cold War.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted June 22, 2019 at 8:08 am | Permalink

                Well, as I said above, too often this nation’s ideals have been aspirational rather than mirrored in our actions. For far too long, we’ve been willing to kiss Saudi ass, simply because they control the world’s oil spigots and buy our big-ticket military equipment.

                But there’s something out of the ordinary going on with SA and the Trump administration. It was weird, and disturbing to our diplomatic community, that Trump chose SA (over all of our traditional allies) for his first state visit. And we’ve never before put a price tag on dismembering a journalist for an American newspaper.

                Because of Donald Trump’s pervasive mendacity and his obdurate refusal to abide by the traditional norms of presidential financial disclosure, we’re watching this play out through a glass darkly. But the truth will out eventually.

              • BJ
                Posted June 22, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

                I think every single nation in a position of power doesn’t really uphold these ideals, but they pretend to, and the pretending is important enough to both keep us friendly in the public sphere and keep us from doing things too terrible. There probably isn’t a single powerful democracy in the world that doesn’t do all the same things we do, while all of the non-democracies in the world do far worse but on a smaller scale. While we, the UK, Germany, etc. do things behind the scenes in the Middle East to keep the region stable and support important power blocs, places like Rwanda undermine a country like Congo to keep them from accidentally or intentionally starting another genocide there. And on and on it goes. And it can never really stop because the world will never be one big, harmonious place where everyone gets along. Like the Middle East, there will always be situations that are ultimately existential threats to the global economy, democracy, or even the very foundation of social cohesion that keeps everyone from breaking down and fighting each other throughout the globe after the collapse of social and political order.

                It’s good to have ideals and to pretend to keep up to them. I think Trump is terrible at this. But the idea that we, or anyone else, has ever truly kept to them is naive.

                Also, the one and only link you included in your penultimate comment was to an MSNBC video in which they were talking about Trump’s bragging about making millions off the Saudis. Let me point out a few things that make this remarkably unremarkable:

                (1) Ali Velshi then goes on to say that Trump used to have eight companies based in SA, “all of which were withdrawn by the end of 2016.”

                (2) Owning extremely famous hotels in critical American cities will most definitely get you tons of Saudi money, and will get you even more when you’re about to or are the next President, as that’s just another form of lobbying, and boy howdy do the Saudis like spending billions on lobbying.

                (3) Tax return releases tell you nothing when people are enmeshed with foreign powers beyond the realm of the personal. Trump is probably stupid enough to have personal ties, but probably not previous Presidents. That’s why, when you tell me that Bush and Cheney’s tax returns were somehow helpful in telling me that they didn’t have nearly the same Middle East interests as Trump might have, I simply must balk. The former head of Halliburton and the son of an oil man have no interests in oil-rich ME countries? Come on. What about the Clinton Foundation? If Hillary had been elected President, do you think her foundation (which her husband and daughter refused to step down from) didn’t have serious ties to the ME, and likely to SA in particular?

                None of this is anything new, it’s just that Trump has been far more brazen about it and egregious in violating the norms of decency. The norm of decency he has broken is failing to pretend well. In today’s globalist, corporate-dominated world, we still want our most powerful politicians to at least pretend that they don’t have interests anywhere but in America and its people, and Trump is terrible at that. But that pretending is just a warm blanket at the end of the day to make us feel better.

                Now, if a Democrat like Klobuchar, Warren, Buttigieg, etc. gets elected President next, we might yet again have a President like Obama who doesn’t appear to have these interests. But the Clintons, Bushes, and Trump all very likely did and do.

              • BJ
                Posted June 22, 2019 at 9:28 am | Permalink

                Oh, and for all the noise people here and elsewhere have been making about Khashoggi, I don’t remember them talking about the hundreds of thousands of Yemenis killed and millions more displaced by SA in the last few years before the Khashoggi incident. I find it strange that this incident is being used as leverage instead. Is his life somehow worth more? Is killing him and trying but failing to do it in secret worse than openly killing all those people in Yemen? It boggles my mind. If I was a Yemeni (and had any internet connection), I would be personally outraged at how the world cares about one journalist who worked for an American newspaper far more than millions of Yemen’s citizens.

    • BJ
      Posted June 21, 2019 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Oh, and the policy we should really be pursuing in SA is a clean regime change to a more progressive leader. Mohammad bin Salman is currently the de facto leader as Crown Prince, but that’s only because he has his father’s respect. With all his bungling, this could soon change, though what that means is just as complicated an issue as everything else in the region.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 21, 2019 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Causing near war with Iran while kissing the ass of Saudi Arabia is no challenge for this so-called president. He and his creep son in law likely already have housing in Saudi Arabia if escape is needed down the road. MBS is writing Trump love letters from the dictator. Probably copies of the ones from N. Korea.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 21, 2019 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      I doubt any of Trump’s dictator buddies (SA Crown Prince, Putin, Kim Jong-un) would offer Trump anything but contempt, and possibly death, if he ever went to them for help in any circumstances in which he no longer had the authority of POTUS.

    • randy bessinger
      Posted June 21, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      I think he called off the attack on Iran not because he feared killing 150 Iranians but because of politics. If you have to go to war, you aren’t the great deal maker you portray yourself as to your base.

      • merilee
        Posted June 21, 2019 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        I doubt that he would give a damn about killing 10X that many.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 21, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        The sad fact of the matter is that the US president cannot be believed about anything — not about the sound of windmills causing cancer, not about his campaign’s internal polls showing him winning bigly “in all 17 swing states” (right before he fires his pollsters), not about a goddamn thing — which is intolerable when it comes to potential international crises.

        Lord knows, the US government has misled the American public before (the five o’clock follies in Vietnam and the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq come readily to mind), but for pure prevarication, Donald Trump takes the yellowcake.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 22, 2019 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        I think maybe because he didn’t want to be seen as responsible for 150 deaths. In the past he’s shown himself to be contemptuous of public opinion; if this is a change then it’s a welcome one. Whether he did it for the right reasons or just for appearances, we have to give him credit for that much degree of restraint. I have to say I was surprised.

        I hope it continues. He may be mindful of the effect that American casualties in Iraq had on Dubya’s popularity. Even if that’s his only reason, if it leads to a desirable result then it’s to be encouraged.


  5. randy bessinger
    Posted June 21, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    People should remember that the liberal UN which some conservatives would like us to withdraw from also through doubt on Iraq having weapons of mass destruction.

    • EdwardM
      Posted June 21, 2019 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Meh. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

      • randy bessinger
        Posted June 21, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Meh to pithy expressions.

        • BJ
          Posted June 21, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          He’s right. Not that we should pull out of the UN, but, while horrible atrocities are taking place around the world — like hundreds of thousands of Yemenis being killed by Saudi Arabia and millions more being displaced, or everything Assad does — the UN has always focused on passing Resolutions against Israel. Since the creation of the UN Human Rights Council (2006), nearly 50% of their resolutions passed condemning a specific country have been against Israel. They account for nearly more Resolutions than against every other country combined. With regard to the UN as a whole, it’s basically the same story. Think about the atrocities that have taken place since 2006, like Sudan. But Israel bears the brunt of the UN’s disapproval regardless. This is just one example of how silly the UN often is.

          The UN is a largely ineffective and biased organization, but it’s still important culturally and sometimes when it comes to charitable and aid initiatives.

      • Posted June 21, 2019 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

        If only the current excuse for a president was right twice a day.

        • t.r.jackson
          Posted June 21, 2019 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

          Details, details. By all indications, Kashoggi was NOT an American citizen, just a legal resident.

          • Posted June 21, 2019 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

            That’s already been corrected. Your comment would have been fine except for the snarky “details, details” bit. Do you know how to be polite?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 22, 2019 at 7:59 am | Permalink

          It seems the President was right at least once today, in calling off retaliatory strikes against Iran for shooting down a drone. Trump noted that the drone was unmanned, where the retaliatory strikes were expected to cause 150 deaths, which he was not prepared to authorise.

          I have no love for Mr Trump and I blame him largely for the current situation, but I have to give credit where it’s due.

          I can only hope that his present restraint continues. Past events don’t give a lot of confidence, but I’ll hope anyway.


          • Posted June 24, 2019 at 5:59 am | Permalink

            Do you not find it strange that he claimed the aircraft were already cocked[sic] and loaded when he called the strike off?

            Is it credible that, when he was briefed by the military on the nature of the strike, they didn’t include an estimate of the casualties? And yet he waited until the last minute before canceling it.

            Either he cancelled it at an earlier stage than when the aircraft were ready to go, or he decided to go ahead and was then walked back by somebody else at the last minute.

  6. W.Benson
    Posted June 21, 2019 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    From the day details of Khashoggi’s murder became clear, it was impossible to imagine that Trump and Kushner’s buddy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto dictator of Saudi Arabia, was not behind it.

  7. A C Harper
    Posted June 22, 2019 at 4:00 am | Permalink

    I’ve no reason to doubt the findings of the Special Rapporteur in this case.

    However Special Rapporteurs’ investigations carried out in the UK showed that those were at risk of finding what they wanted to find for political reasons rather than report the dispassionate truth.

    We are all biased (including me) and it takes methodological science or forensic criminal investigation to get the closest to the truth we can.

    But, to repeat, I’ve no reason to doubt the findings of the Special Rapporteur in this case.

  8. Posted June 24, 2019 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Well, at least we have something … now what do we do about it?

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