The Biden administration granted immunity for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in the murder case of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a controversial move that surprised human rights groups, the Biden administration announced this week that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, should be granted immunity in the case of murdering Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The case was brought against bin Salman by Khashoggi’s fiancée, who believes his man was murdered at bin Salman’s direction.
Upon the frequent requests by Khashoggi’s fiancée, the US Justice Department lawyers prepared a court filing to hold bin Salman accountable for the murder of the Washington Post journalist.
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government and bin Salman, was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 by agents of the Saudi government.
However, and despite the US intelligence services confirmed that Khashoggi was murdered at the direct order of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the State Department issued a statement this week and noted that because bin Salman was recently made the Saudi prime minister, he qualifies for immunity as a foreign head of government. “Mohammed bin Salman, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the sitting head of government and, accordingly, is immune from this suit,” the statement reads, while calling the murder “heinous.”
Bin Salman has always denied the allegations and sought immunity from prosecution, claiming that his various government and royal positions gave him immunity and put him outside the US courts’ jurisdiction.
Finally, and in a move that was unprecedented in the Kingdom’s history, bin Salman was promoted to prime minister by his father, King Salman, who would normally hold that position. This happened only a few days before the Biden administration was supposed to weigh in on the question of immunity for the young Crown Prince.
Widespread reactions to the immunity grant
Confirming the news of immunity grant, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters this Sunday that the decision was a legal determination and that “it has nothing to do with the merits of this case.”
However, many human rights activists, politicians, and the Amnesty International itself rebuked the decision. They believe that thanks to the Biden administration’s immunity decision, Prince bin Salman now has a level of protection from US legal actions that even Trump did not offer him.
Amnesty International, an international non-governmental organization focused on human rights, said in a statement this Friday that the US government “should hang its head in shame. This is nothing more than a sickening, total, deep betrayal.”
Likewise, Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz criticized the decision and said “Biden himself betrayed his word, betrayed Jamal. History will not forget this wrong decision”. Cengiz also tweeted, “Biden saved the murderer by granting immunity. He saved the criminal and got involved in the crime himself. Let’s see who will save you in the hereafter?”
The executive director of DAWN, Sarah Leah Whitson, also rebuked the decision and called the immunity request a “shocking outcome” and a “massive concession” to Saudi Arabia.
“It’s really beyond ironic that President Biden has basically delivered an assurance of impunity for Mohammed bin Salman, which is the exact opposite of what he promised to do to hold the killers of Jamal Khashoggi accountable,” Whitson said in an interview with CNN.
Last but not least, Fred Ryan, the publisher and CEO of The Washington Post, slammed the decision, saying in a statement that “President Biden is failing to uphold America’s most cherished values.”