The National Assembly Party (NAAS) welcomes the decision of the US administration to release the unclassified CIA report on the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Congress. We also welcome the public engagement of the US administration with the Saudi government to promote respect for human rights and the release of several political prisoners. We always call for involving the Saudi public through civil society institutions in the diaspora, academics and activists, in matters that concern the future of our country. Inside Saudi Arabia, there is an unprecedented and unlawful campaign of arrests, arbitrary detention, travel bans, and intimidation against reputable community leaders, journalists, human rights activists, religious reformers, and women activists that affected thousands of people.
While we value the move to release the report, we think it is of more importance to take actions against the perpetrators of the gruesome murder at all levels to achieve accountability. We are against any sanctions that may affect or jeopardize the interests of the people of Saudi Arabia, and we think targeted sanctions against individuals involved in human rights violations is important. Mohammed Bin Salman is an unelected leader whose criminal, unlawful actions, along with the group of officials who carry these actions, are condemned by the people of Saudi Arabia and do not represent the public values. Therefore, any sanctions taken against him or those involved in this heinous crime should not be directed against the economic or political interests of the country’s citizens whether in Saudi Arabia or abroad.
To deliver justice for Khashoggi and for others facing similar risk, the recommendations of the special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, need to be enforced. These include conducting an open FBI investigation into the execution of Mr. Khashoggi, and pursue criminal prosecutions within the United States, as appropriate, providing a determination under Section 1263(d) of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016 as to the responsibility of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, as well as the relevant information documenting how the administration came to this determination, and holding hearings within the US Congress to determine the responsibility of high-level officials of Saudi Arabia or of other countries, and demanding access to the underlying classified materials.
We also encourage the US administration’s efforts to work with Saudi institutions, instead of individuals, towards respect for human rights, freedom of expression, rule of law, and a path for democratic transition. The sham trial held in Saudi Arabia against a handful of officials involved did not achieve any justice and the investigation did not come near the masterminds. Transparency, public representation through free elections at all levels of the state in a truly democratic manner are the only safeguards against the outcomes of such reckless and dangerous abuse of power of autocratic leadership. Under Mohammed bin Salman’s obsession with centralizing power and silencing critics, by the most vicious means, there are no real institutional reforms or independence to protect against his whims, whether in Saudi Arabia or abroad. The killing of Khashoggi would never have happened in a country protected by independent institutions, free from political manipulation and monitored by the public.