Frenchwoman Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, investigated the assassination in October 2018 of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN) rapporteur on extrajudicial killings. His report called for the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman, known as “MBS”, the strongman of the kingdom, designated by the CIA as the sponsor of this assassination, to be placed under sanctions. She reacts to the meeting scheduled for Saturday, December 4 in Saudi Arabia, between the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and “MBS”.
What does this visit inspire you?
This move, whether it is the objective or not, is part of a policy of rehabilitation of the Saudi Crown Prince. It saddens me that Emmanuel Macron lends his aura of head of state to such an enterprise. It grieves me that it is France, a “country of human rights”, which is used as the tool of this policy. In recent months, “MBS” has sought to restore its image through multiple initiatives, such as the purchase of English football team Newcastle. But this is the first time that a great power has participated in such a direct way in its rehabilitation.
Until then, Mohammed Ben Salman seemed infrequent for Western leaders …
The crown prince was not tried [dans l’affaire Khashoggi] – Saudi justice sentenced the executors to twenty years in prison and exonerated “MBS” from all responsibility – but, on the Western scene, he was an outcast. It is the result of the work carried out by civil societies and human rights defenders, who believe that there must be a price to pay for such an act. Macron’s visit, unfortunately, undermines those efforts.
For the Elysee, Saudi Arabia plays too important a role in the Middle East to be ignored. What do you think ?
We have to wonder about these so-called strategic interests. Who defines them? How far are we prepared to go on their behalf? And, if President Macron goes to Saudi Arabia, isn’t it primarily for mercantile interests? We have seen in Egypt what can happen in the name of strategic and commercial interest: a possible complicity in extrajudicial executions [allusion aux récentes révélations du site Disclose sur les dérives de la coopération antiterroriste franco-égyptienne]. Do we want to put an end to the eliminations of journalists across the world? So we must remain firm with regard to the sponsors. France should not participate in the rehabilitation of a killer prince.
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Macron-Ben Salman meeting: “France should not participate in the rehabilitation of a killer prince”