Khashoggi assassination: Macron speeds up international rehabilitation of Saudi bin Salman despite criticism from human rights NGOs | International

It will hardly be a couple of hours in total discretion and within the framework of a “work dinner”, a relatively low level on the protocol scale. Even so, the decision of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to receive the Saudi crown prince Mohamed Bin Salmán (MBS) this Thursday at the Elysee has been harshly criticized by human rights organizations, who denounce the gesture as a definitive step towards political rehabilitation of the principal accused of the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. While several NGOs presented this Thursday in Paris a lawsuit against the controversial Saudi leader before the French justice, the Government of the country that boasts of being the origin of the human rights justified a geostrategic decision at a time when Europe seeks to diversify and ensure its energy supply to counteract the closure of Russian gas in the Kremlin’s pulse due to the war in Ukraine.

“You have to be vigilant in terms of human rights and freedoms, and that will be a message that the president will transmit to Bin Salmán tonight. But Saudi Arabia is a partner, we have geopolitical supply problems and I think it is important to have this type of exchange without giving up our goals and values, especially respect for human rights,” the Prime Minister said a few hours before the meeting. , Élisabeth Borne, to the Franceinfo radio station.

The brutal death of the columnist of the Washington Post at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 made MBS an international pariah. The war in Ukraine and the consequent need for the West to diversify and guarantee its energy sources in the face of the closure of the Russian gas tap have visibly accelerated a political rehabilitation that had already timidly begun at the end of last year: Macron himself met him in Riyadh in December, becoming the first Western leader to hold a face-to-face meeting with the Saudi prince since he was diplomatically ostracized. The process has now been consolidated with MBS’s interview with the US president, Joe Biden, in the middle of the month in Jeddah and the European tour these days by the Saudi, who arrived in Paris on Wednesday night after a first stopover in Greece.

In Athens, MBS sealed an agreement to lay an underwater data cable connecting Europe with Asia and explored with Greek authorities, including Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the possibility of connecting the two countries’ power grids to supply more power to Europe . On Wednesday, multiple agreements were discussed and signed in sectors such as defense, agriculture and shipping.

“Speaking with all the Gulf countries is an absolute necessity,” Aurore Bergé, president of Macron’s party, Renaissance, also defended this Thursday in the National Assembly.

“Assassin prince”, according to Amnesty International

Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.


However, no one is unaware of the drastic turn that the gestures towards the Saudi represent, highly criticized by human rights organizations and the political opposition. “The rehabilitation of the assassin prince will be justified in France and in the United States with arguments of realpolitik. But in reality it is marketing that predominates, let’s not kid ourselves,” criticizes the secretary general of Amnesty International and former UN rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, who received threats from Riyadh for investigating Khashoggi’s murder.

“It seems that MBS can count on Macron to rehabilitate himself on the international scene despite the atrocious death of journalist Kamal Khashoggi, the relentless repression of the Saudi authorities against all criticism or the war crimes in Yemen”, agreed the director in France of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Benedicte Jeannerod. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has demanded for its part that Macron “intervene with MBS so that the 27 journalists currently detained in Saudi Arabia are released.”

Taking advantage of the presence of the Saudi heir in the French capital, several NGOs, including DAWN (Democracy for the Arab World Now), created by Khashoggi himself shortly before his death, presented this Thursday a lawsuit against the Saudi heir before the French justice, that recognizes universal justice in cases of torture and forced disappearances. Together with the Swiss Trial International and the American Open Society Justice Initiative, they argue that MBS is “accomplice in the torture and forced disappearance of Khashoggi” and that Bin Salmán “does not have immunity because as crown prince or head of state.”

“The French authorities should immediately open a criminal investigation against Bin Salman,” DAWN executive director Sarah Leah Whitson demanded. “As part of the UN Convention against Torture and Enforced Disappearances, France is obliged to investigate a suspect like Bin Salman if he is present on French territory,” she added in a statement.

This scenario has forced the Macron government to limit its exposure to the Saudi heir as much as possible. There will be a dinner, yes, but with total discretion. To the point that it recalls that famous “comes y te vas” that 20 years ago the then Mexican president, Vicente Fox, said to Fidel Castro during a summit of the Americas to prevent the Cuban leader from crossing paths with the American George W. Bush .

The difference is that that incident then caused the biggest bilateral crisis between Mexico and Cuba, while this Thursday’s dinner in Paris seeks the opposite: closer ties with countries rich in energy sources. Something that has already led Macron to receive, in recent days, other dignitaries with a more than dubious human rights curriculum, but key in energy diversification: the president of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and, days later, the Egyptian Abdel Fattah al Sisi.

Bin Salman’s trip to Europe comes less than two weeks after Biden met the crown prince during the US leader’s first tour of the Middle East. Biden’s visit also drew strong criticism, because during the 2020 campaign he promised to make the desert kingdom an international pariah over the Khashoggi case. The US president assured that he was “frank and direct” when talking about Khashoggi with Bin Salmán.

On that occasion, one of the main issues on the agenda was also energy and the possibility of Saudi Arabia increasing oil supplies to calm prices that have skyrocketed in recent months. However, there are doubts about whether the desert kingdom has significant additional production capacity, and in any case Riyadh has always maintained its commitment to coordinate with the OPEC+ export bloc, of which Russia is also a member. In this sense, bilateral announcements about possible increases in supply are not expected, and the hopes of the West are pinned on the meeting to be held by OPEC+ on August 3.

The rehabilitation of the Saudi regime in the West also comes after Bin Salmán accelerated his diplomatic activity in the Middle East before Biden’s visit, with notable stops in Egypt and Turkey, with whom he has already reestablished ties after their relationship was affected. for Khashoggi’s murder. Bin Salmán’s objective, according to local media, was to strengthen his leadership and regional alliances to consolidate before Europe, and especially the United States, as a key partner in the area.

Follow all the international information in Facebook Y Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button