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February 27, 2019 10:26 am

Saudi Minister Talks About Human Rights, Doesn’t Mention Khashoggi

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A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 25, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Osman Orsal / File.

A Saudi minister told the United Nations on Wednesday that it would cooperate with its human rights mechanisms, but he did not explicitly refer to a UN-led inquiry into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Agnes Callamard, a UN investigator on extra-judicial executions, said after a mission to Turkey this month that evidence pointed to a brutal murder “planned and perpetrated” by Saudi officials. Her final report is due in June.

US intelligence agencies believe Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered an operation to kill Khashoggi, a critic and Washington Post columnist. They say his body was dismembered and removed to a location still publicly unknown.

His murder in the Saudi Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2 provoked widespread revulsion and tarnished the image of the crown prince, who previously was admired in the West for his reform efforts.

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“We will also cooperate with the UN mechanisms related to human rights, including the Human Rights Council,” Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir,Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, told the Geneva forum.

Jubeir, asked twice by a Reuters reporter whether that meant the kingdom would cooperate with the Khashoggi investigation led by Callamard, declined to respond.

The Saudi public prosecutor’s spokesman said late last year that 11 Saudis had been indicted and referred for trial over the case, with authorities seeking the death penalty for five.

In her preliminary report, Callamard said Saudi officials had “seriously undermined” and delayed Turkey’s efforts to investigate the crime scene. She called the continued failure to disclose the location of Khashoggi’s remains “unconscionable.”

Contacted by Reuters, Callamard said on Wednesday that she had received no cooperation from Saudi officials to date, despite her requests. She also noted “there has been no cooperation of the CIA with my inquiry thus far.”

Al-Jubeir said that the kingdom was working to empower women and increase their participation in the labor market, to 30 percent by 2030 from 22 percent.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is keen in its combating of terrorism as an ideology and behavior,” he said. “In this regard we strike a balance between combating terrorism on the one hand and the preservation of human rights on the other hand.”

Saudi authorities were working to ensure fair trials and improve detention conditions, he added.

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