THIRTEEN MINUTES before Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, the head of a hit team who was dispatched to intercept him asked the team’s forensic doctor about dismembering the journalist’s body. It would, replied Salah Tubaigy, “be easy. Joints will be separated. . . . If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished.” Just 37 minutes after that conversation, and 24 minutes after Khashoggi entered the consulate, sounds could be heard that Turkish investigators later judged to be those of a saw.
These shocking details come from a penetrating and disturbing report on Khashoggi’s murder issued Wednesday by Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Ms. Callamard, who spent five months investigating The Post contributing columnist’s murder, was stonewalled by Saudi authorities. But she collected considerable evidence, including from some 45 minutes of tape recordings made by Turkey inside the Saudi Consulate before, during and after the murder.
Her conclusions are unambiguous: “Mr. Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law.” Yet eight months after his death, there has been no credible process for holding those responsible accountable — including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Ms. Callamard’s report points out that Maher Mutreb, the leader of the hit team, was an employee of Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to the crown prince who “personally directed a campaign targeting activists and political opponents,” and briefed the hit team about Khashoggi before it departed from Riyadh. It cites “credible evidence” that “the decision to kill Mr. Khashoggi was made before the plane carrying Dr. Tubaigy and Mr. Mutreb had left Saudi Arabia.”
As for Mohammed bin Salman, Ms. Callamard reports, “every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the Crown Prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched.” Similarly, she concludes that the “destruction of evidence” carried out after Oct. 2 to cover up the murder “could not have taken place without the Crown Prince’s awareness.”
Ms. Callamard says she did not reach a conclusion about the guilt of Mohammed bin Salman or Mr. Qahtani, but she found that “there is credible evidence meriting further investigation, by a proper authority, as to whether the threshold of criminal responsibility has been met.” Neither is among the 11 people being prosecuted in a secret Saudi trial; she says that trial “will not deliver credible accountability” and should be suspended.
The report calls on the United Nations and the United States to launch their own criminal investigations of the murder. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, Ms. Callamard points out, “should be able to establish an international follow-up criminal investigation without any trigger by a State.” The FBI, she found, could also open an investigation, because Khashoggi lived in Virginia. She recommends that Congress hold hearings “to determine the responsibility of high-level Saudi officials, and demand access to the underlying classified materials.” In the meantime, sanctions should be applied to the crown prince and his foreign assets, “until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution.”
Ms. Callamard has laid out a path for holding the murderers of Khashoggi accountable. Now it is up to Mr. Guterres, the FBI and congressional leaders to accept her charge and follow up.