UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville confirmed the accuracy of details published in the Guardian newspaper regarding threats against Agnes Callamard, the UN expert on the summary killings, in an email response Wednesday to Reuters.
The Guardian quoted Callamard on Tuesday as saying that a Saudi official had threatened that she would be “taken care of” if she was not curbed following her investigation into the journalist’s murder.
Colville added that the UN human rights office informed Callamard of the threat in addition to advising security and UN authorities.
Callamard told the Guardian that the threat was conveyed during a January 2020 meeting between Saudi and UN officials in Geneva and that she was briefed on the incident by a UN colleague.
Callamard led a UN investigation into the murder of Khashoggi in October 2018 by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi officials did not respond to a request for comment. Callamard did not respond when contacted by the Reuters news agency.
‘A death threat’
She published a report in 2019 concluding that there was “credible evidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and senior Saudi officials were responsible for the murder of the Washington Post columnist and US resident.
She then called for sanctions against the prince’s assets and a limit to his international engagement.
The prince denies any involvement in the murder but said he bore ultimate responsibility because it happened under his leadership.
The alleged threat was made during a meeting between Geneva-based Saudi diplomats, a visiting Saudi delegation and UN officials, the Guardian reported.
After the Saudi side criticized Callamard’s work in the case, the newspaper reported, a senior Saudi official said he spoke to people willing to “take care of her.”
“A death threat. That’s how it was understood, ”Callamard said.
“Those who were present, and also afterwards, made it clear to the Saudi delegation that this was absolutely inappropriate.”
Callamard criticized a Saudi court decision in September to jail eight people for up to 20 years for the murder, accusing the kingdom of “mocking justice” by failing to punish more senior officials.
The administration of US President Joe Biden, which has taken a stronger stance on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, released an intelligence report last month that MBS approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi.
The Saudi government rejected the findings and reiterated that the murder was a heinous crime committed by a group of thugs.
Callamard, whose replacement was announced on Wednesday, takes up a new post as Amnesty International’s secretary general.
In his letter of resignation from his UN post, Callamard wrote that the work to investigate human rights violations is “more important than ever as our world grapples with pandemics, conflicts, climatic crises and accelerating technological change ”.