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MBS war crimes probe: Argentine judge asks for information from Turkey, Yemen

Human Rights Watch asked for investigation into Saudi crown prince's possible role in war crimes in Yemen and Jamal Khashoggi murder
Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman landed in Buenos Aires on Wednesday (Reuters)

An Argentine judge reviewing a Human Rights Watch complaint against the Saudi crown prince asked the Argentine foreign ministry to seek information from Yemen, Turkey and the International Criminal Court, the judge's office said on Wednesday.

The office of federal judge, Ariel Lijo, told Reuters it was seeking information on any open cases relating to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi or war crimes in Yemen.

HRW asked Argentina on Monday to use a war crimes clause in its constitution to investigate any involvement by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in possible crimes against humanity in Yemen and Khashoggi’s murder.

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As the driving force behind Saudi Arabia's military involvement in Yemen, the crown prince has been under heightened scrutiny in recent weeks, as calls to hold him accountable for the country's destruction grow louder.

A Saudi-led coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, launched a military offensive in Yemen in 2015 to root out Houthi rebels, who had deposed Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and taken over the capital, Sanaa.

The ongoing conflict has killed thousands, left millions of civilians on the brink of famine and created a devastating humanitarian crisis across Yemen.

On Wednesday, bin Salman, also known as MBS, landed in Argentina, where he is expected to attend a G20 summit alongside other world leaders, including US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

His presence at the meetings has been widely condemned, amid ongoing outrage over Yemen and the case of Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

'Sending a clear message'

Earlier on Wednesday, Sarah Leah Whitson, the head of Human Right Watch's Middle East and North Africa division, said that Argentina's prosecutor has asked a judge to request information from the Yemeni and Saudi governments on alleged crimes committed by Saudi-led forces in Yemen.

The announcement comes only a few days after Argentina said it had opened an inquiry into whether to press criminal charges against MBS over alleged war crimes in Yemen, following a complaint lodged by HRW and an Argentine federal prosecutor.

The Argentine judiciary ... is sending a clear message that even powerful officials are not above the law

- Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch

Whitson also said on Wednesday that the Argentine prosecutor had requested information from the country's ministry of foreign affairs "regarding MBS's diplomatic status".

Argentina's laws promote the idea of universal jurisdiction, where severe human rights violations are subject to prosecution regardless of sovereign boundaries.

"The Argentine judiciary, by taking steps toward a formal investigation into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is sending a clear message that even powerful officials are not above the law and will be scrutinised if implicated in grave international crimes,” said Kenneth Roth, HRW’s executive director, in a statement on Twitter.

The pressure comes amid US President Donald Trump's refusal to reevaluate Washington's relationship with Riyadh over the Yemen war and the Khashoggi killing.

That flies in the face of the CIA's assertion that MBS ordered Khashoggi's killing, as well as ongoing calls from US lawmakers, including several within Trump's own Republican party, for Trump to hold the Saudi crown prince responsible.

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