Appointment in court, Mr. Crown Prince | Jamal Khashoggi News
On Friday, February 26, the Biden administration released a unclassified version of the report prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), revealing the least kept secret of the American intelligence services: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the operation that killed Jamal Khashoggi.
Despite the findings of the ODNI report, the Biden administration chose to impose no sanction on him. Fortunately, another mechanism exists to ensure personal liability against the crown prince: the courts.
Efforts to bring justice for Khashoggi’s murder extend to all branches of government. As Congress has pressured the administration to release the ODNI report, they will try to force Biden to hold MBS accountable.
Representative Tom Malinowski introduced legislation on March 1 to impose a visa ban on MBSs. A day later, Representative Ilhan Omar introduced a bill impose sanctions on MBS for his role in the murder. It remains to be seen whether Congress can muster bipartisan support to pass either of these bills as a direct and swift challenge to President Biden.
Regardless, given its refusal to sanction MBS after the report was released, the Biden administration will likely adopt the same posture as the Trump administration with regard to congressional efforts to hold MBS accountable and veto. to the legislation which imposes any sanction on MBS for the murder.
The good news is that the US judiciary remains independent of the two political branches and is not subject to a presidential veto; this may well provide the means to bring justice for the crimes of MBS.
Three cases have been brought against the Crown Prince in US federal courts, one for Khashoggi’s murder; the second for attempted murder the former senior intelligence official in exile, Saad Aljabri; the third for hacking, harassment and defamation from Al Jazeera anchor, Ghada Oueiss.
Recent developments bode well for the complainants in all three cases.
The Biden administration has indicated that it considers MBS as Saudi defense minister to be on par with the US secretary of defense, a designation that will almost certainly deny him the head of state’s immunity from these. lawsuits.
The ODNI report also confirms the main underlying factual argument of the plaintiffs in the Khashoggi case: MBS was responsible for the murder of Khashoggi. If the court in the Khashoggi case postpones, as it should, until the conclusion of the ODNI report on the guilt of MBS, it will hold MBS responsible for the murder, and may well impose substantial damages, “paying the price” that the President Biden promised but did not deliver.
Although it seems that MBS escaped Magnitsky sanctions, for now, it will be much more difficult to evade the judgment of a federal court. U.S. courts are not the only place MBS can face legal sanction. This week, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) filed a 500-page criminal complaint against MBS in a German court, alleging that the crown prince had committed crimes against humanity in his crusade against journalists, including the murder of Khashoggi.
RSF relies on German universal jurisdiction laws which allow a German court to try MBS for crimes committed elsewhere. The principle of universal jurisdiction was invoked last week, as Germany condemned former Syrian intelligence officer Eyad al-Gharib to four and a half years in prison for the crimes he committed during the Syrian civil war.
The laws of universal jurisdiction, widespread in many European countries and in the United States in the form of the Alien Tort Statute, are based on the idea that the perpetrators of certain serious crimes, such as genocide, torture or extrajudicial killings, are “hostes humani generis”, meaning “enemies of all humanity”.
The extrajudicial murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Mohammed bin Salman clearly falls into this category. As a result, it seems likely that courts on both sides of the Atlantic will hold MBS to account for his role in Khashoggi’s murder. As these court cases gain media attention, more plaintiffs and prosecutors may be encouraged to launch new prosecutions against MBS for similar crimes.
These cases are exactly the reason why MBS has not dared to set foot in the United States or Europe since he assassinated Khashoggi. By imposing a significant sanction on MBS for his campaign of harassment, detention and murder, the courts could accomplish what governments have been unable or refused to do, providing good reason for MBS to moderate its behavior.
We just saw this week, with the targeted harassment and threats of Saudi trolls against our staff and our organization, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), that MBS is not ready to abandon its bullying tactics. The Biden administration’s inaction has certainly not prompted MBS to temper its abuses. Whether or not they can influence MBS’s behavior, the courts currently offer the best chance of securing a small measure of justice for Jamal Khashoggi and other victims of MBS human rights violations.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.