Switzerland calls for fair trial in case of slain Saudi journalist

A UN report implicates the Saudi crown prince in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and calls for an international investigation. Keystone

The fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi has urged Switzerland to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia as the United Nations Human Rights CouncilExternal link met in Geneva for a dialogue on extrajudicial executions.

This content was published on June 26, 2019

“Switzerland could play a role by placing sanctions on Saudi Arabia” to achieve results in calls for accountability on Riyadh’s part, said Hatice Cengiz, who then called on all countries to pursue sanctions.

In response, the Swiss ambassador to the UN, Valentin ZellwegerExternal link, appealed to the Gulf kingdom to ensure a fair judicial process for those accused of murdering the Saudi journalist at the state’s Istanbul consulate in October 2018.

Cengiz told journalists assembled in Geneva that Switzerland could work with the UN to step up efforts even if the country “has no links” to the case. The Turkish citizen, a journalist herself, did not meet with Swiss representatives.

In an appeal for justice over the journalist's death at the UN's top human rights body, Hatice Cengiz singled out Switzerland. Keystone

Rapporteur’s findings rejected

Prior to the start of Wednesday’s meeting, a group of NGOs released a letter addressed to Swiss foreign minister Ignazio Cassis and 47 other diplomatic heads, asking for a mechanism to monitor human rights in Saudi Arabia. The NGOs singled out what they called violations of international norms in the trial of the suspects in the Khashoggi affair.

In presenting her report, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions told the Geneva meeting that Khashoggi’s murder had been premeditated by Riyadh. Agnès Callamard also implicated the crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman and one of his advisers in the case and called on the UN to launch an international investigation.

But the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said he did not have the authority to do this without the intervention of a state. According to Cengiz, the United States – Khashoggi’s country of residence at the time of his death – and the European Union could play a role in this regard.

Saudi Arabia rejected the rapporteur’s findings, calling them “not credible” and adding it would block any attempt to interfere in the Saudi judicial process.

Last March Switzerland withheld its signatureExternal link from a joint statement by 36 states, including all members of the EU, criticising the human rights situation in the Gulf state. Among other rebukes, the text called on Saudi authorities to cooperate with the UN rapporteur’s investigation of the killing. According to Zellweger, Switzerland finds itself “in a special position because of its mandate as a protective power for Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

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