US report eschews bin Salman’s function in Khashoggi homicide

WASHINGTON 

The Trump administration on Wednesday continued to whitewash Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.  

In its annual human rights report, the State Department said Khashoggi was killed by ‘government agents’ but continued to shy away from naming Saudi Arabia’s de factor ruler as being behind the grisly murder.

Khashoggi was killed shortly after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of his whereabouts, claiming he left the diplomatic facility in good health the same day he went missing.

But following a rising number of contradictions in its narrative, Riyadh sought to blame the journalist’s death on a botched rendition operation being carried out by rogue agents.

That explanation fell flat for many, including congressional leaders, who insist Khashoggi’s high-profile murder could not have been carried out without bin Salman’s blessing.

The CIA determined with high confidence in November that bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

Despite explicitly naming Khashoggi’s murder as a rights abuse, the State Department did not draw any conclusions about who was responsible, instead pointing to actions the Kingdom has taken which have been criticized as efforts to assign blame on lower-ranking officials.

It did, however, say that the killing was one instance in which the Saudi “government or its agents engaged in arbitrary or unlawful killings”.

On China, the report said Beijing has engaged in detaining between 800,000 to over 2 million Uighur Muslims, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims in detention camps that have been a source of international outcry.

The report said the camps in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region have been the site of “torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” despite laws that prohibit such abuses, pointing to “military-style discipline and pervasive political indoctrination of the detainees”.

“Members of the minority Uighur ethnic group reported systematic torture and other degrading treatment by law enforcement officers and officials working within the penal system and the internment camps,” it said.

“Survivors stated authorities subjected individuals in custody to electrocution, waterboarding, beatings, stress positions, injection of unknown substances and cold cells,” it added.

Switching to Myanmar, the State Department continued to document widespread rights abuses against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority group, saying over 13,000 people fled to Bangladesh between January and September as the Myanmar government consistently prevented aid from reaching the devastated region.

It further noted that following the Myanmar military’s military campaign in Rakhine state, authorities have bulldozed village remnants, demolished buildings and cleared plant life “to reshape some former Rohingya villages and replace former establishments with security bases and other structural developments”.

Roughly 128,000 Rohingya remain displaced within Myanmar following intercommunal violence that began in 2012, according to the report.

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