Mohammed bin Salman: a legal immunity that goes badly in the United States

“Jamal died again today. » It is with these indignant words that Hatice Cengiz, fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, the assassinated Saudi journalist reacted on Twitter to the recommendation issued November 17 by the State Department. The legal service of the American Minister of Foreign Affairs establishes in it that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) enjoys legal immunity in the event of a trial for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. However, the CIA considers that the Saudi crown prince has ” approved “ the operation to capture and kill the journalist, perceived as a dissident by the kingdom.

“The United States respectfully informs the court that Defendant Mohammed bin Salman, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the incumbent Head of Government and, therefore, is immune from this trial.can we read in this document submitted to the Columbia District Court by the administration. Heads of State immunity is a well-established principle of customary international law. »

“Even Trump didn’t go that far”

However, Mohammed ben Salmane, who was deputy prime minister, defense minister, happens to be the de facto leader of the kingdom and was appointed prime minister by royal decree at the end of September. An appointment that fueled speculation that he was precisely seeking to dodge lawsuits arising from civil actions, such as that launched by Hatice Cengiz in the United States.

The Department of State specifies in this non-binding recommendation that it “draws no opinion from these proceedings and repeats its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi”. “This is a legal decision (…), insisted a spokesman for the National Security Council of the White House. It has nothing to do with the merits of the case. »

Those close to Jamal Khashoggi and supporters of the lawsuits do not see it that way. This is what Biden’s promises to ‘hold to account’ look like. Even Trump didn’t go that far in protecting MBS’tweeted Khalid al-Jabri, son of a former Saudi spy who accused the prince of sending him a team of killers in Canada. “We thought maybe we could see the light of justice shine in the United States, but money won out again”added Hatice Cengiz.

“Do you have oil and dollars? You are safe »

Same anger on the side of the American NGO, founded by Jamal Khashoggi, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). “By breaking his promise of accountability, Biden guarantees impunity to MBS”, railed on Twitter, Sarah Leah WhitsonExecutive Director of DAWN, who talks about a legal error”, “because the king is the head of state and head of government in the Saudi absolute monarchy”. “Caving in to MBS’s immunity ploy gives bullies around the world a blank check, she believes. Do you have oil and dollars? You are safe, whatever your crimes. »

During his trip to Saudi Arabia in July, the first of his term, Joe Biden had already been accused of having sounded the rehabilitation of Mohammed bin Salman, considered for months as an outcast on the international scene since the assassination. Because this visit, part of the old and strategic relationship with the oil kingdom, was also dictated by a principle of reality in the face of rising hydrocarbon prices. Joe Biden then did not get the expected boost.

Since the American president has even publicly expressed his strong dissatisfaction on October 11, going so far as to mention the need to reassess the bilateral relationship with Riyadh. So many reasons to follow the next meeting of the oil cartel led by Arabia, in December.

Mohammed bin Salman: a legal immunity that goes badly in the United States