Agnes Callamard presented an independent report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. "We must continue to fight," she told BI.
- United Nations rapporteur Agnès Callamard investigated Jamal Khashoggi's death for six months.
- She presented a 100-page report in June that provided credible evidence that the Saudi Crown Prince must have at least known about Khashoggi's murder.
- Speaking to Business Insider Deutschland, the French human-rights expert said that after inaction from the UN, she decided to take on the investigation herself.
- "We have the power to tell our governments to keep raising the issue," Callamard told Business Insider. "I want to give readers a sense of hope."
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Agnès Callamard is a United Nations special rapporteur who investigated the murder of Saudi journalist and regime critic, Jamal Khashoggi, and has been pushing for more answers ever since.
Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, to collect papers in preparation for his wedding to his Turkish fiancée, who was waiting for him in front of the building. He was never seen again.
All available information suggests that the journalist was murdered and dismembered by Saudi intelligence operatives inside the consulate. His remains were never found.
Khashoggi was one of the most prominent critics of the Saudi regime, frequently denouncing the royal family for human-rights violations. After being banned from reporting in his own country, he fled to the US, where he continued writing as a columnist for the Washington Post.
In an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes," Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accepted responsibility but still insists that he knew nothing about the murder. Meanwhile, 11 men are on trial in Saudi Arabia for allegedly killing the journalist.
Callamard's 100-page report on the Khashoggi case was presented to the UN in June.
In an interview with Business Insider, Callamard talks about the passivity of democracies and her hope that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi will still be solved.Business Insider: You decided to open an independent investigation into the Khashoggi case. Why?
Agnès Callamard (AC): After the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, I called for an international investigation. That was at the end of October 2018. But at the beginning of December, it became apparent that the United Nations, and in particular, the Secretary-General would not act. Many senior people simply ignored the case. It was clear to me that we must not allow a country to get away with such a public murder.
BI: Unfortunately, Jamal Khashoggi is not the first journalist murdered by his government. What makes this case so special?
AC: Countries get away with killing journalists when there's a lot of uncertainty about who exactly did it. But in Mr. Khashoggi's case, we know that the murder took place in a consulate and that several well-known officials were involved. This is why I think that it's extremely dangerous for the UN to not even consider serious consequences for the country, and also why I decided to take on the case myself. I spent six months investigating the murder with my colleagues, examining every piece of evidence two times, three times, if not four times.
BI: But even after you provided concrete evidence that Mohammed bin Salman must have known about the murder, the United Nations did not act.
AC: That is correct. Following my report, I proposed that a panel of criminal experts be set up to determine, on the basis of my findings, which exact individuals were responsible for the murder of Khashoggi. Unfortunately, the Secretary-General still refuses to do anything about this today.
BI: The US Congress, on the other hand, initiated an investigation into the Khashoggi murder. But Donald Trump stopped it with his presidential veto. Did you expect that?
AC: Yes. I was disappointed, but not surprised. At the moment, the White House has done everything in its power to protect Saudi Arabia from investigations into the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. There have been many attempts by the Senate and Congress to investigate, and all have been stopped by the president.
BI: So US authorities are incapable of acting?
AC: No. The FBI is able to investigate on its own, and I am confident that it will look into the case. The White House has not been very effective in preventing information from reaching the public. Hopefully, that will also be the case with the information about Jamal Khashoggi.
BI: Nine days after the publication of your report, Mohammed bin Salman smiled in a picture with world leaders at the G20 summit in Osaka. What do you think this says about the state of our global community?
AC: It's not positive. Mohammed bin Salman was greeted with a handshake by the US President in front of cameras, while the other heads of state waved happily into the camera. That was a scandal. A slap in the face of all victims of human-rights violations.
The incident demonstrated the cowardice of the international community. When Donald Trump does something like this, it is one thing. But it is unacceptable that European leaders, like Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron, have joined this travesty.
BI: Why do you think Merkel and Macron did that?
AC: Maybe they don't care. You have to ask Merkel and Macron that. The G20 was clearly manipulated by Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman. An economic summit was an instrument used for political purposes.
Merkel and Macron could have shown courage and moral character by not allowing themselves to be photographed with MBS. But they did not. What we experienced in Istanbul and Osaka is nothing but tacit complicity. Powerful states and governments support impunity for human-rights violations through their passivity.
BI: Who could persuade world leaders to take action?
AC: Their respective national parliaments. They have not done enough to call on governments to fight the impunity of Saudi rulers. They have not asked what the relationship is between their government and Saudi Arabia. The parliamentarians must work to protect democracy, but at the moment they don't seem to be doing that sufficiently.
BI: Can society do anything to support parliaments?
AC: We have to make it clear to MBS, Donald Trump and the people who support them, that we are watching them. Wherever they appear, we need to be there to ask what happened — to bring up the murder of Jamal Khashoggi again. On behalf of Khashoggi, we need to give out awards in his name and hold public debates about the dangers journalists are facing, and the suppression of critical voices.
Hopefully, there will be more reports about it [the murder]: books, films, and documentaries. All of this will keep the issue on the table and ensure that these men do not get away with the murder. It may be that it is more of a nuisance than an obstacle for these people, but we have to let them know that we will not forget their behavior.
BI: And how can we prevent the Khashoggi case from repeating itself?
AC: I have recommended some measures in my report. The UN should create a permanent tool for criminal investigations of targeted killings to ensure that, in cases like Jamal Khashoggi's, an international body is available to intervene and conduct a proper criminal investigation.
We should also develop a detailed catalog of measures for governments, police, intelligence services, and civil society to respond adequately to threats.
My third proposal was that governments strengthen protection for journalists and other human-rights defenders living in their countries. We must be aware of the fact that staying abroad, in exile, is no longer effective protection.
BI: What do you recommend for future dealings with Saudi Arabia?
AC: I have proposed sanctions against people at the highest levels of government and the suspension of exports of surveillance technologies. Companies trading with Saudi Arabia need to consider the impact it has on human-rights. They should not stop trading, but they should be aware that their products could be used for repression.
BI: Was there a country or a person who positively surprised you in this matter?
AC: Yes, a lot of people! First of all, the media. The Washington Post, in particular, was exemplary in the way it took up the murder of its colleague and ensured that Saudi Arabia could not get away with it.
Hatice Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggi's fiancée, is a very, very impressive person. She has become an unbelievable role model for us in fighting for her fiancé with resolute dignity.
I was also impressed by a number of American congressmen and senators, both Republicans and Democrats. I found it amazing to see American parliamentarians willing to take on Saudi Arabia and the White House at a time when everyone is concerned about these powerful players.
BI: Do you believe that there is a risk for people like yourself, journalists, or parliamentarians to speak out against a regime that has made people disappear before?
AC: You mean physical danger? Possibly. It is difficult for me to answer that. I think the main targets are Saudi nationals, who are also critics. You know, it is a matter of internal affairs.
I do not believe that my report has had a major impact in Saudi Arabia, partly because of the strong control of the media and social networks there. There were so much misinformation and propaganda around my report. I doubt that it will affect the Saudi public, with the exception of people who reject what I have done.
BI: What will happen now with the Khashoggi case? Do you think that those responsible will still be called to account?
AC: I want to give readers a sense of hope. Just because Mohammed bin Salman is not on trial at the moment does not mean that justice will not be served. We must continue to fight, we must use our governments, our secret services, our businesses, and our media.
There have always been human-rights violations. Unfortunately, the actors who resisted it in the past are not doing enough or doing nothing at all. We must give them the courage to stand up and fight and we must show them our support when they do.
We have the power to tell our governments to keep raising the issue. We have the power to ask our parliamentarians to keep the issue on the table. As long as we are aware of this and do not give in, I think we are on the right track.