Mohammed bin Salman’s high office should shield him from punishment for his alleged complicity in the death, according to the State Department, despite the US president’s earlier threat to make the country’s leaders “pariahs” in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing in 2018
The prince, also referred to as MBS, is the subject of a lawsuit brought against him by Mr. Khashoggi’s fiancée and Democracy for the Arab World Now, the rights organisation he established.
The request is not legally binding, and a court will make the ultimate determination.
As Saudi Arabia exerts down on opponents at home and abroad and has reduced oil production, the decision is certain to enrage human rights advocates and many US legislators and is seen as undercutting efforts by the US and its allies to punish Russia for its war against Ukraine.
The State Department cited what it claimed was a long-standing precedent when it claimed that the decision to try to shield the Saudi crown prince from US courts in connection with Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was “purely a legal determination.”
The State Department stated that it “takes no view on the merits of the present complaint and reiterates its emphatic condemnation of the terrible murder of Jamal Khashoggi” notwithstanding its suggestion.
The Washington Post journalist was murdered by Saudi officials inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Although his remains have never been discovered, it is thought that they dismembered him.
The US intelligence agency came to the conclusion that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had given the go-ahead for the murder of the renowned and esteemed journalist who had criticised his violent repression of rivals.
His role has been disputed by Saudi Arabia.
The Biden administration’s statement highlighted visa restrictions and other sanctions it had imposed on lower-ranking Saudi officials as a result of the killing.
The State Department stated: “The United States government has voiced its grave concerns regarding Saudi operatives’ complicity for Jamal Khashoggi’s death from the first days of this administration.”
The alleged role of the crown prince himself was not mentioned in the statement.
In 2019, Mr. Biden declared while running for office: “I think it was a flat-out murder. And I believe that’s what we ought to have nailed it as.
I stated at the time in public that we should treat it that way and that there should be consequences for how we handle those – that power.
However, in his capacity as president, he has worked to reduce tensions with the kingdom. During a visit in July, he even bumped fists with Prince Mohammed as the US pushed to convince Saudi Arabia to reverse a series of production cuts.
“It is beyond ironic that President Biden has ensured MBS can escape accountability when it was President Biden who told the American people he would do everything to hold him accountable,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of DAWN.
Back in February 2021, Mr. Biden had disregarded the possibility of the US government punishing Prince Mohammed directly for the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, a resident of Washington.
Mr. Biden said at the time that there was no precedence for the US to take action against the leader of a vital partner in a speech made after he approved the release of a declassified version of the intelligence community’s findings on Prince Mohammed’s alleged complicity in the death.
“It’s impossible to see today’s action by the Biden administration as anything other than a submission to Saudi pressure techniques, including lowering oil output to twist our arms into recognising MBS’s bogus immunity gambit,” said Ms. Whitson.
Additionally, the Biden administration had the choice to remain neutral.
According to the concept of sovereign immunity, governments and its representatives are exempt from certain legal actions brought before domestic courts in other foreign states.
According to the State Department, upholding the idea helps prevent American officials from being brought before tribunals abroad.
Human rights defenders had worried that if the Biden administration agreed with the crown prince’s assertion that his position shielded him from punishment, it would encourage Prince Mohammed and other authoritarian leaders to commit additional rights violations.
In place of his father, King Salman, Prince Mohammed currently holds the position as de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.
Prince Mohammed was given the temporary position of prime minister by the Saudi king in September, which is a position ordinarily held by the Saudi monarch.
It was criticised as an attempt to support his son’s claim of immunity.