Mohammad bin Salman: Argentina prosecutors to consider charging Saudi crown prince with war crimes

Court filing calls for kingdom’s de facto leader to face action over Yemen intervention and Khashoggi murder

Tom Barnes
Tuesday 27 November 2018 11:48 GMT
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman says Khashoggi killing was 'heinous crime'

Argentine prosecutors are considering whether to charge Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman over possible war crimes in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch submitted papers on Monday calling on Argentina to use a clause in its constitution to prosecute Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader if he attends the G20 summit in Buenos Aires later this week.

In its filing, the organisation listed alleged violations of international law by Riyadh during the conflict in Yemen, for which it says Crown Prince Mohammad may face criminal liability due to his role as Saudi defence minister.

It also highlighted what it described as “possible complicity” by the crown prince in claims of torture and ill-treatment of Saudi citizens, including the case of Khashoggi, who was murdered inside the country’s Istanbul consulate in October.

“Argentine prosecutorial authorities should scrutinise Mohammad bin Salman’s role in possible war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition since 2015 in Yemen,” said Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth.

“The crown prince’s attendance at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires could make the Argentine courts an avenue of redress for victims of abuses unable to seek justice in Yemen or Saudi Arabia.”

Argentina’s constitution recognises universal jurisdiction for war crimes and torture, meaning judicial authorities can investigate and prosecute those crimes no matter where they were committed.

Human Rights Watch said its submission was sent to federal judge Ariel Lijo. Neither Mr Lijo’s office nor the office of Argentina’s public prosecutor responded to requests for comment.

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Argentine media cited judicial sources as saying it was extremely unlikely that the authorities would take up the case against the crown prince.

However, cases taking advantage of universal jurisdiction have had success in the past, perhaps most notably in 1998 when Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon was able to order the arrest in London of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist highly critical of the Saudi regime and Crown Prince Mohammad in particular, sparked international condemnation and strained Riyadh’s usually cordial relations with many western nations.

Calls are also being made ahead of the summit for an end to the Saudi-led military campaign in neighbouring Yemen as a humanitarian crisis in the country worsens.

The intervention was launched by the crown prince in 2015 after Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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