A senior Saudi official warned the UN some of his countrymen will "take care of" UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnès Callamard, after she began investigating the 2018 death of reporter and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.
Callamard led the inquiry and presented the findings to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019. The Saudi official said he, and other Saudi diplomats, are getting phone calls from people offering to “take care” of the French human rights activist during a meeting held in Genève in 2020.
Callamard told the UK newspaper a friend had alerted her to the exchange and that it was understood by those present as “a death threat.”
The Saudi delegation also claimed she accepted Qatari money to submit a biased report.
When the UN delegation expressed alarm over the threat, the Saudi officials downplayed it and left the room. The remaining official, however, the same one who made the original threat, told the UN officials that Callamard will be taken care of by these unnamed men unless “you do.” Meaning, the UN prevents her from following up on her investigation.
Khashoggi vanished after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and it was later discovered he was murdered and his body cut to pieces in an attempt to hide the killing.
In her report, Callamard linked the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, and other top-ranking Saudi officials to the killing and called it an "international crime."
A US intelligence report released recently also claimed MBS approved the murder of Khashoggi, who often criticized his homeland on the pages of The Washington Post.
Callamard said that on this issue, the UN stood firm and told the Saudis that "this was absolutely inappropriate" and that it "should not go further."
Years of impunity have brought us to a point where a senior Saudi official can twice threaten in a UN meeting to have a UN special rapporteur (@UN_SPExperts) “taken care of” 'if she was not reined in by the UN.'Solidarity w/ @AgnesCallamard https://t.co/V7VCvpkeRO— Mai El-Sadany (@maitelsadany) March 23, 2021
Human Rights lawyer Mai El-Sadany from the Washington, DC-based Tahrir Institute said that this Saudi behavior is the result of "years of impunity" and called to show solidarity with Callamard.
The Gulf Center for Human Rights and Iran Human Rights Documentation Center board member Gissou Nia joined the call and offered their support as well on social media.
Callamard said the threats did not alter her course of action in any way.
Director of Columbia University's Global Freedom of Expression project, Callamard will soon end her role in the UN to take the reins as secretary-general of Amnesty International.
This is not the first time she faced threats. In 2017, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he would slap her should she investigate him, a threat for which he was criticized by the UN Human Rights Council.
Callamard said the drug war waged by Duterte should be investigated, to which he responded by inviting her to a public debate of the issue if she agrees to speak under oath, Philippine news site Rappler reported at the time.
In July 2020, she claimed that the US drone killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and nine other people represented a violation of international law,