Human rights activists have denounced Emmanuel Macron’s decision to host Mohammed bin Salman for talks in Paris during the Saudi crown prince’s first visit to Europe since the journalist’s murder nearly four years ago Jamal Khashoggi.
Prince Mohammed, the de facto leader of the world’s second largest oil producer, arrived at Orly airport on Wednesday evening after a red carpet stopover in Greece and was greeted by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, the authorities reported. French media.
He will be welcomed at the Elysee Palace on Thursday for a working dinner at which the French president is expected to ask him to increase Saudi oil production as the West grows concerned about winter energy shortages following the invasion. Russian from Ukraine.
The visit marks another milestone in Prince Mohammed’s rehabilitation after Khashoggi was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 in what a UN investigation described as an “extrajudicial killing for which Saudi Arabia is responsible “.
The investigation concluded there was “credible evidence” to warrant further investigation of high-level Saudi officials, including Prince Mohammed, who US intelligence agencies said approved the operation. Riyadh blamed the rogue agents.
US President Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia earlier this month, greeting the crown prince with a thumbs-up, while Macron visited the kingdom for talks with him last December and the Britain’s Boris Johnson followed suit in March.
Human rights groups have been very critical. Prince Mohammed’s visit to France and Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia “do not change the fact that [Prince Mohammed] is something other than a killer,” said Agnès Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, describing the 36-year-old crown prince as a man who “does not tolerate dissent”.
Callamard, who at the time of the murder was the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions and who conducted her independent investigation, told Agence France-Presse that she was “deeply disturbed by this visit, because of what it means for our world and what it means for Jamal [Khashoggi] and people like him.
The reception of the crown prince by world leaders was “all the more shocking given that many at the time expressed disgust and a commitment not to bring him back into the international community“, it said. – she added, denouncing “a double standard” and “values … being erased”. in the face of concerns about rising oil prices.
The head of Human Rights Watch in France, Bénédicte Jeannerod, tweeted that Bin Salman could “apparently count on Emmanuel Macron to rehabilitate him on the international stage despite the atrocious assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the ruthless repression of all criticism by the Saudi authorities, and the war crimes in Yemen”.
Julien Bayou, leader of the opposition Greens (EELV) party, said he was “shocked” that France was “completely abandoning the idea of defending human rights in the world… Emmanuel Macron was forced to roll out the red carpet because we need oil.Dependence on fossil fuels means we sell our principles at low prices.
Two NGOs, the American organization Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn), which Khashoggi founded in 2018, and the Swiss campaign group Trial International, filed a joint official complaint in Paris on Thursday against Prince Mohammed for “complicity in torture” and “enforced disappearance”.
The initiative, supported by the Open Society Justice Initiative, was filed under universal jurisdiction, which allows a state to try crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture committed outside its jurisdiction. territory. NGOs have argued that as crown prince, Prince Mohammed does not enjoy diplomatic immunity.
“As a party to the conventions against torture and enforced disappearances, France is obligated to investigate a suspect like Bin Salman if he is on French territory,” said Dawn executive director Sarah Leah Whitson. , according to Le Monde.
Abdullah Alaoudh, director of the Gulf region of Dawn, told FranceInfo radio that Prince Mohammed’s visit to France was “shameful. We believe he is trying to whitewash his crimes… He is an unstable dictator and walking hand in hand with him is dishonorable.
Legal experts said it was unlikely Prince Mohammed would be summoned while he was there, as it would normally take weeks before an investigating judge was appointed. The crown prince could, however, be deterred from returning to France by the complaint, an NGO lawyer told the newspaper.