WASHINGTON, D.C.—A group of six U.S. human rights and media freedom organizations today called on members of Congress and the Trump administration to take immediate concrete steps to pursue justice for Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist and U.S. resident brutally murdered in a diplomatic facility in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.
In a joint statement [PDF], the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Justice Initiative, PEN America, and Reporters Without Borders expressed their deep concern about the continued lack of transparency and accountability surrounding Khashoggi’s murder, as well as Saudi Arabia’s persecution of other journalists and dissidents.
Today’s joint statement comes one day ahead of a congressionally-imposed deadline under which the president must determine and report to Senate leaders on which foreign individuals the U.S. government has found to be responsible in Khashoggi’s murder.
“Jamal Khashoggi was murdered. The Trump administration appears to be engaged in a cover-up on behalf of the Saudi government. It is time for truth, accountability, and justice for Jamal,” said Amrit Singh of the Open Society Justice Initiative. Singh is the lead lawyer on a lawsuit filed under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act seeking the immediate release of government records relating to the killing of Khashoggi.
On October 10, 2018, a bipartisan group of 22 senators, including all but one member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, addressed a letter to President Trump invoking, for the first time, the Global Magnitsky Act’s Section 1263(d) Presidential Determination requirement.
The letter gave President Trump 120 days to determine whether foreign officials were involved in “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”; and include “a statement of whether or not the president imposed or intends to impose sanctions with respect to the person.” The 120-day deadline expires tomorrow.
In addition to urging the administration to deliver this Presidential Determination as required, the letter urges Congress and the administration to make public the CIA’s assessment of responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder, as well as records relating to the U.S. government’s duty to warn him of the threat to his life.
“The CIA’s assessment and other records relating to responsibility for the murder continue to be withheld from the public,” wrote the groups. “The public also remains in the dark about what the U.S. government knew about the murder or previous threats to Khashoggi's life and, dependent on that information, whether the U.S. government took any steps to warn him, as required by law.”
The statement also urges the U.S. government to actively push for an independent, international investigation into the murder, and for the release of journalists, dissidents, activists, and clerics detained in Saudi Arabia for peaceful expression of their views.
To date, the Trump administration has sanctioned 17 Saudi officials in relation to the Khashoggi murder, but has refused to confirm any connection between the crime and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Today’s statement coincides with a morning press conference in front of the White House hosted by the Committee to Protect Journalists to demand justice for Khashoggi’s murder.