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Pressure on Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi case reaches fever pitch

Rights groups urge Turkey to commit to independent UN investigation as European leaders suspend political visits to Saudi Arabia
Rights groups say UN must conduct independent probe into Saudi role in case of missing journalist (AFP)

Global condemnation over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and likely death has intensified, as rights groups are demanding an independent investigation, and European leaders have pledged to avoid making political visits to Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists on Thursday urged Turkey to allow the United Nations to conduct an investigation into Saudi Arabia’s role in the Khashoggi case.

“Turkey should enlist the UN to initiate a timely, credible, and transparent investigation,” Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.

“UN involvement is the best guarantee against a Saudi whitewash or attempts by other governments to sweep the issue under the carpet to preserve lucrative business ties with Riyadh."

Louis Charbonneau, the UN director at HRW, said Saudi Arabia’s own investigation into what happened to Khashoggi - a prominent Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist - is in question because of the role its officials may have played in his disappearance.

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“Partial explanations and one-sided investigations by Saudi Arabia, which is suspected of involvement, aren’t good enough,” said Louis Charbonneau, the group's UN director.

“Only the UN has the credibility and independence required to expose the masterminds behind Khashoggi’s enforced disappearance and to hold them to account,” Charbonneau added.

“If the UN is truly mobilised to fight impunity for crimes against journalists, then at the very least they must be fully engaged in one of the most shocking and extreme cases in recent years by undertaking this investigation," added Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders.

France, UK, Netherlands suspend visits to Riyadh

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he has suspended political visits to Saudi Arabia in conjunction with the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, as a result of the Khashoggi case.

“In the current circumstances we have decided to suspended some visits, political ones,” Macron told reporters in Brussels.

He went on to say that the decision – reached after he spoke with his UK and Dutch counterparts – was made “in the short term given the seriousness of the facts and the absence of clarification on these elements".

France also joined a growing list of countries and companies that plan to boycott Saudi Arabia’s upcoming investment conference, set to take place in Riyadh next week.

On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin pulled out of the event, which is being dubbed as “Davos in the desert”.

In the current circumstances we have decided to suspended some visits, political ones

- French President Emmanuel Macron

Fox Business Network also announced it wouldn't participate, joining CNN, the New York Times, CNBC, Bloomberg, the Financial Times and other media groups that have already cancelled plans to go to Riyadh.

Khashoggi, a Saudi insider-turned-critic of the Gulf kingdom, was last seen on 2 October when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to sort out paperwork.

Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in his disappearance and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving. However, they have not presented any evidence to corroborate their claim and say that video cameras at the consulate were not recording at the time.

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