US hands down 'immunity' to MBS in Khashoggi murder case
The Prince of the once "pariah" state has for long denied ordering Khashoggi's killing, despite all reports and intelligence saying otherwise.
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was announced to have immunity by the Biden administration on Thursday from a lawsuit over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
The journalist's ex-fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, took to Twitter after the news spread to say that "Jamal died again today."
On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to file paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee. According to US and Turkish officials, a Saudi hit squad strangled him and dismembered his body, which has never been retrieved.
The murder sparked international outrage that continues to reverberate, with Western intelligence agencies accusing MBS of authorizing the killing.
In a written statement, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said, “This is a legal determination made by the State Department under longstanding and well-established principles of customary international law," adding, "It has nothing to do with the merits of the case."
In a US district court for the District of Columbia, Justice Department attorneys argued in a document that "the doctrine of head of state immunity is well established in customary international law."
The lawyers further commented that the executive branch of US government represented by the Biden administration "determined that defendant bin Salman, as the sitting head of a foreign government, enjoys head of state immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts as a result of that office."
In customary international law, an individual can be granted immunity if they are a head of state, head of government, or a foreign minister, which gives them the advantage of avoiding legal processes and pursuit by both national and international courts.
In this case, MBS was appointed as Prime Minister by his father in September, giving him a security blanket to cover all his crimes with. This was also backed by a team of lawyers who petitioned on October 3 for the federal district court in Washington to dismiss the case, stating, "The Royal Order leaves no doubt that the Crown Prince is entitled to status-based immunity."
US President Joe Biden told MBS that he believed he was behind Khashoggi's killing, which the Prince denied but admitted that it happened under his "watch".
Human rights activists and government critics speculated this week that making MBS Prime Minister was a blatant attempt to bolster the immunity claim and avoid legal consequences.
Sarah Lee Whitson, a spokeswoman for Democracy for the Arab World Now which Khashoggi founded, released in a written statement that "it's beyond ironic that President Biden has single-handedly assured MBS can escape accountability when it was President Biden who promised the American people he would do everything to hold him accountable. Not even the Trump administration did this."
Cengiz and DAWN brought the lawsuit against MBS and 28 others in October 2020 in the Washington, DC, Federal District Court, claiming that the team of assassins “kidnapped, bound, drugged, tortured, and assassinated” Khashoggi at the consulate in Istanbul.