Top Saudi official made death threats to UN investigator Callamard on Khashoggi murder

United Nations officials twice said Riyadh would have Agnes Callamard ‘taken care of’ following probe into journalist’s assassination, a Middle East Monitor report says

A senior Saudi official allegedly issued death threats against outgoing United Nations investigator Agnes Callamard, following her damning findings into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Guardian revealed on Tuesday.

Callamard, an independent human rights expert, investigated Khashoggi’s assassination in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, and a year later published a 100-page report that found “credible evidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials were behind the murder.

The special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, who will this month become Amnesty International’s secretary-general, told the Guardian in an interview that a UN colleague warned her that in January 2020 a senior Saudi official twice issued threats against her in a meeting with other senior UN officials in Geneva.

At a “high-level” meeting, the visiting senior Saudi official allegedly said they could have Callamard “taken care of” if the UN did not check her.   

The rights expert said that Saudi officials criticized her work on Khashoggi’s murder and expressed anger at her conclusions during the meeting between Geneva-based Saudi diplomats, visiting Saudi officials and UN officials in Geneva. 

Callamard, whose report characterized the assassination as an “international murder”, said the officials also made unfounded claims that she had received money from Qatar.

“A death threat. That was how it was understood,” Callamard said, when asked how the comment was understood by her Geneva-based colleagues.

Callamard was told that when UN officials expressed alarm, other Saudi officials present at the meeting tried to reassure them that the remark should not be taken seriously. After the Saudi group left, the visiting senior Saudi official stayed in the room and repeated the perceived threat to the remaining UN officials. 

Callamard claimed that the official said he knew people who had offered to “take care of the issue if you don’t”.

“People that were present, and also subsequently, made it clear to the Saudi delegation that this was absolutely inappropriate and that there was an expectation that this should not go further,” she was quoted as saying. 

“You know, those threats don’t work on me. Well, I don’t want to call for more threats. But I have to do what I have to do. It didn’t stop me from acting in a way which I think is the right thing to do.”

In late February, the US administration released a summary of its own classified report into Khashoggi’s murder, concluding that bin Salman had approved the assassination. 

Saudi Ambassador to the United Nations Abdallah al-Mouallimi at the time criticized the US intelligence report and called on the world to “move on” from the gruesome murder. 

Mouallimi said that the US report did not prove the crown prince’s responsibility for the killing “beyond reasonable doubt”.