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News > World

UN Expert: Spyware Sales to Saudis Should be Banned

  • Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, after a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 7, 2019

    Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, after a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 7, 2019 | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 July 2019

A UN special rapporteur who investigated Khashoggi's murder says again the state killed the journalist, and Riyadh can't be trusted with spy tech.

A United Nations expert, who recently concluded an investigation into the state-sponsored killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, says sanctions on surveillance technology sales to Saudi Arabia are necessary as reports are swirling that the kingdom has been using spyware to keep track of dissidents abroad.


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Agnes Callamard, a UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions, said that such a ban would help to not only hold Riyadh accountable for Khashoggi’s murder, but also to prevent similar extrajudicial assassinations.

“I do believe there should be a moratorium on the sale of surveillance technology to Saudi Arabia,” she said, adding that the regime has shown it “cannot be trusted” with it.

Khashoggi—a vocal critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—was killed an dismembered inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey last October.

Last month, Callamard presented findings of her six-month investigation into his murder.

In her 101-page report, she said that there is “sufficient credible evidence” indicating that Khashoggi’s end was a premeditated extrajudicial killing for which Saudi Arabia's leadership is responsible, says Al Jazeera. The expert called for an official investigation into the crown prince’s role in the murder.

Saudi Arabia had been using extensive technology tools to harass dissidents living abroad or spy on them using Israeli software long before it ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

The UN expert also stressed that Khashoggi’s killing violated various international norms, including the Vienna Convention on consular relations and the UN charter on the extraterritorial use of force.

She also underlined the need to recognize that the state had carried out the murder.

“We really must insist that this was a state killing, and for it, the state must be held responsible and accountable,” Callamard said, noting that the killers were state agents who used Saudi government means to execute the journalist after they lured him into the consulate in Turkey.

“As you know, the killing took place in a consulate; the consul himself used his power to ensure that there were no witnesses on the floor when the killing took place,” she said. “So all of the dimensions of the execution of the crime meet the definition of a state killing.”

The UN rapporteur during her address in Washington that Western sanctions on Saudi citizens involved in the crime amount essentially protect Riyadh’s claim that the murder was carried out by “rogue” agents.

“So it’s really important to insist on what we do vis-a-vis the state of Saudi Arabia, not some 15, 17 individuals,” the government claims were responsible for the brutal murder, she said.

Callamard also criticized the Saudi government's investigation into the case for failing to meet international standards. 

“There is no way I can conclude that the investigation conducted by Saudi Arabia was done effectively, was done in good faith and allowed for international cooperation,” she said. The international law expert said G20 members should reconsider holding their November meeting in Riyadh. 

“Political accountability for Mr. Khashoggi will mean that it doesn’t happen or it’s moved elsewhere, or something is being done to ensure that the political system in the U.S. and in other countries does not become complicit of that international crime,” Callamard concluded.

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