The head of the Saudi human rights commission said on Thursday that the kingdom was bringing those accused over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to justice and rejected an international investigation into the case.
Three dozen Western countries, including all 28 European Union members, called on Saudi Arabia last week to cooperate with a United Nations-led investigation into the murder of Khashoggi, a critic and Washington Post columnist.
He was killed by Saudi agents October 2 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
Bandar bin Mohammed al-Aiban told the UN Human Rights Council (OHCHR) that those on trial for the “heinous crime” and “unfortunate accident” had attended three hearings so far with their lawyers present. He gave no names or details.
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.
Some Western governments have accused Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of being implicated in the murder. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince.
“Justice in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia operates pursuant to international law and it does so in all transparency,” Aiban told the Geneva forum during a review of Saudi’s rights record.
He said the kingdom would not accept what he termed as foreign interference in its domestic affairs and judicial system.
Agnes Callamard, UN investigator on extrajudicial executions, said that Saudi officials have not responded to requests to cooperate with her investigation into the murder.
Lack of confidence in Saudi narrative
Speaking from Geneva, Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker said that there has been a change in mood from the human rights council towards Saudi Arabia.
“There’s a real frustration against many members of the council that for far too long Saudi Arabia has been able to bury accusations of civil rights abuses using whatever diplomatic support it can get from its partners within the council to obfuscate and avoid dealing with things head on,” he said.
“But given the immense pressure that it is now facing, Saudi Arabia has fewer places to go but is doing its best not to answer the questions that are being asked of it.”
The kingdom seems to be raising more questions rather than providing any concerted idea of what exactly has happened when it comes to bringing the alleged perpetrators to justice, Barker continued.
Human Rights Watch official John Fischer told Al Jazeera that there remained many unanswered questions, including who ultimately was responsible for Khashoggi’s death, who ordered it, and how high up it went.
“What we’ve seen from the outset since this whole saga became public is a series of obfuscations and denials by Saudi Arabia, in some cases where their accounts simply do not fit the facts,” Fischer said.
“So it is very difficult to have confidence in their narrative and that’s why we are calling for an independent international inquiry, so that the international community can rightfully ascertain the facts for itself.”
“We call upon Saudi Arabia as a member of UN Human Rights Council to cooperate with the council’s own mechanisms including the special rapporteur [Agnes Callamard] and ensuring they are willing to allow her access and to give her whatever information she needs in order to conduct that independent inquiry,” he added.
Al Jazeera and news agencies