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Turkey: UN expert delivers early findings in Khashoggi probe

07 February 2019

  • Evidence points to prima facie case of brutal, premeditated killing
  • Planned and perpetrated by officials from Saudi Arabia
  • Expert denounces “immunity for impunity”
  • Final report will be delivered to Human Rights Council in June
  • An important role for the UN and the international community

GENEVA (7 February 2019) – The UN Special Rapporteur leading an independent human rights inquiry into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said his murder was the gravest violation of the most fundamental of all rights, the right to life.

“Evidence collected during my mission to Turkey shows prime facie case that Mr Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia,” said Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, at the end of a visit to Turkey.

“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the sheer brutality of it has brought irreversible tragedy to his loved ones. It is also raising a number of international implications which demand the urgent attention of the international community including the United Nations.”

The Special Rapporteur travelled to Ankara and Istanbul with Helena Kennedy, a Queen’s Counsel, Duarte Nuno Vieira, a forensics expert, and Paul Johnston, a homicide and major crimes investigator.

Investigations by the team are ongoing.

Callamard’s final report, to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June, will make a range of recommendations, including for the purpose of formal criminal accountability, and their bases in international law. “The human rights inquiry I have committed to undertake is a necessary step, among a number of others, towards crucial truth telling and formal accountability.”

She said under the international legal framework guiding her mission, the team was focused on those with the duty to investigate Khashoggi’s death, on those who have been involved in the investigation, and on their findings or assessments.

Callamard said Turkey’s efforts to apply prompt; effective and thorough; independent and impartial; and transparent investigations – in line with international law - had been seriously curtailed and undermined by Saudi Arabia. “Woefully inadequate time and access was granted to Turkish investigators to conduct a professional and effective crime-scene examination and search required by international standards for investigation,” she said.

Callamard said that the killing of Mr. Khashoggi violated both international law and core rules of international relations, including the requirements for lawful use of diplomatic missions. “Guarantees of immunity were never intended to facilitate the commission of a crime and exonerate its authors of their criminal responsibility or to conceal a violation of the right to life.  The circumstances of the killing and the response by State representatives in its aftermath may be described as ‘immunity for impunity’,” she said. 

The Special Rapporteur said her team had been given access to some crucial information about Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, including to parts of the chilling and gruesome audio material obtained and retained by the Turkish Intelligence agency. She said they were not able to undertake a deep technical examination of this material, and had not had the opportunity to independently authenticate the audio material.

Callamard said the team was unable to undertake other crucial inquiries, largely, but not only, due to time constraints. “For instance, we could not meet with the investigators that have been working on the case, such as the chief police investigator and relevant forensic and crime scene specialists,” she said, calling on the authorities to promptly fulfil their pledge to provide access to forensic, scientific and police reports. 

The Special Rapporteur said the killing of Mr. Khashoggi was part of a well evidenced pattern of killings globally of journalists, other human rights defenders, activists and opponents of various regimes. “Fleeing abroad in search of safety has become less and less a reliable form of protection,” the Special Rapporteur said. “The international community must take a strong and collective stand against these practices,” she warned.

Callamard thanked the Government of Turkey for their support of the visit and called on relevant authorities’ to remain engaged and to continue to cooperate fully with the mission.

I intend to continue to consider evidence in the weeks to come and would urge anyone who has knowledge or intelligence about what took place before and after Mr. Khashoggi’s murder to share it with us,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The team met the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, the Chief of Turkish Intelligence, the Chief Prosecutor of Istanbul and a number of other stakeholders, including from the civil society and the media community.

The mission, from 28 January to 3 February, was the Special Rapporteur’s first official visit to the country.


Ms. Agnes Callamard (France), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has a distinguished career in human rights and humanitarian work globally. Ms. Callamard is the Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University and has previously worked with Article 19 and Amnesty International. She has advised multilateral organizations and governments around the world, has led human rights investigations in more than 30 countries, and has published extensively on human rights and related fields.

UN Human Rights, Country Page: Turkey

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