UN investigator calls on Saudi Arabia to make Khashoggi murder trials public

The United Nations investigator on extrajudicial executions is calling on Saudi Arabia hold public trials for the suspects accused of killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Agnes Callamard, who has been leading a UN investigation into the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, said the hearings that Saudi Arabia has conducted looking into the murder have not met international standards and called for more transparency.

“The Government of Saudi Arabia is grievously mistaken if it believes that these proceedings, as currently constituted, will satisfy the international community, either in terms of procedural fairness under international standards or in terms of the validity of their conclusions,” she said in a statement.

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Saudi Arabia has indicted 11 unnamed suspects in the murder and is seeking the death penalty for five of them.

Callamard called on the government to release the names of those indicted, saying that the trial is not just a domestic matter.

Khashooggi, a Washington Post columnist, was a vocal critic of the Saudi regime.

Turkish officials and U.S. lawmakers have said they believe high-ranking Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were responsible for planning and carrying out Khashoggi's killing. The crown prince has denied any role in the killing. Saudi prosecutors have said the crown prince and his top aide Saud al-Qahtani are not implicated in the murder.

Callamard said that international observers should also be allowed to monitor the trials.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should issue invitations to international, independent monitors who have a recognized track record in monitoring trials and who can bring expertise both in international standards governing fair trials and in investigations under the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Deaths," she said.

Some countries have been allowed to view the trials, but according to Callamard those monitors are "insufficient and cannot provide credible validation of the proceedings or of the investigation itself."

“They risk being participants in a potential miscarriage of justice, possibly complicit should it be shown that the trials are marred by violations of human rights law,” she said of those that have attended. 

Khashoggi's death has led to an international outcry and scrutiny of Saudi leadership. The Senate passed a resolution last year holding the crown prince "responsible" for the killing.