Argentina urged to arrest Saudi prince MBS at G20 summit over Khashoggi killing
Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, has submitted a writ to Ariel Lijo, a federal judge in Buenos Aires, for Mohammed bin Salman to be tried over the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen. The writ has been passed on to a federal prosecutor, Ramiro González, who will decide whether the case can be pursued in an Argentine court.
Even if the request is not accepted, it will cause further embarrassment for the crown prince when he arrives in the city for the summit. He faced protests in Tunisia yesterday, the latest stop in a tour of his country’s allies that is intended to boost his reputation.
His appearance at the G20 summit will cause discomfort among other leaders in attendance, some of whom have been openly critical of the way that Saudi Arabia has handled the Khashoggi crisis and of the continuing attacks on civilian targets in Yemen.
President Erdogan of Turkey, who clashed with the crown prince over the murder of Khashoggi, is considering a request from the Saudi government for a meeting between the two men on the summit’s sidelines.
Media outlets close to the Turkish state had published exerts of recordings made by the intelligence services of Khashoggi’s death in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul last month, revelations that threaten Riyadh’s longstanding alliances with the West. Mr Erdogan has claimed the orders for the killing came “from the very top”.
Argentina’s constitution contains a clause allowing universal jurisdiction in cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and torture, meaning that it can prosecute those cases no matter where they occurred in the world or who carried them out. The country has previously used those powers to pursue cases against former ministers in the cabinet of General Franco who were accused of torture and unlawful killings during the Spanish civil war.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said: “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.”
In his role as Saudi defence minister, the crown prince has masterminded the military campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015, which has left more than 10,000 dead and millions on the brink of starvation.
The crown prince has travelled to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in the past week. At the Abu Dhabi grand prix on Sunday he posed with the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who has a reputation for brutality. In Tunis yesterday, hundreds chanted “the murderer is not welcome” in the city centre while a journalists’ union put up a huge banner showing the prince with a saw, a reference to the dismemberment of Khashoggi. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian dictator ousted in the Arab spring revolt, lives in exile in Saudi Arabia.