Top Saudi official issued death threat against UN investigator

A senior official issued a death threat against UN investigator Agnes Callamard following her inquiry into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

In an interview with the British newspaper, the outgoing special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings said a UN colleague alerted her in January 2020 that an unnamed Saudi official twice threatened in a meeting with other senior UN officials in Geneva to have Callamard “taken care of”.

She said the comments were understood as a “death threat” by her colleagues.

Callamard, a French national, will be joining the human rights watchdog Amnesty International as secretary-general this month, according to the news report.

She was the first official to investigate the murder of Washington Post columnist Khashoggi, who was killed by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, and publish a detailed report.

Khashoggi was a former royal insider who often wrote critically of the Saudi government.

In the 100-page report published in June 2019, Callamard said Khashoggi’s death “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible”.

The report also said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) should be investigated over the murder.

Last month, an unclassified US intelligence report also concluded MBS approved and likely ordered the killing of Khashoggi. The Saudi government rejected “the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report”.

Saudi Arabia has said Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation” by agents and Prince Mohammed has denied ordering it.

‘Take care of her’

Callamard told the Guardian the threats against her were made at a “high-level” meeting between Geneva-based Saudi diplomats, visiting Saudi officials, and UN officials in Switzerland.

She was told the Saudis criticised her work on the Khashoggi probe, voicing anger about her investigation and conclusions, the Guardian reported.

The Saudi officials also claimed she received money from Qatar, an allegation frequently used against critics of the Saudi government.

Callamard said one of the visiting senior Saudi officials is then alleged to have said he received phone calls from individuals who were prepared to “take care of her”, the newspaper said.

When UN officials voiced alarm, other Saudis present tried to reassure them the comment should not be taken seriously.

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