US Dismisses Suit Against Saudi Ruler Over Khashoggi Killing

A US federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This decision comes weeks after Pres. Joe Biden’s administration asked that MBS be granted immunity.

US Dismisses Suit Against Saudi Ruler Over Khashoggi Killing
Image credit: Saudi Royal Palace/AP [via Al Jazeera]

Facts

  • A US federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This decision comes weeks after Pres. Joe Biden’s administration asked that MBS be granted immunity.
  • In a statement, Judge John D. Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia explained, “the United States has informed the court that he is immune, and bin Salman is therefore entitled to head of state immunity … while he remains in office.”
  • The US Dept. of Justice previously filed a brief with the court saying that MBS, “as the sitting head of a foreign government,” enjoyed head-of-state immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts.
  • Bates also issued dismissals on jurisdictional grounds for two top MBS aides – Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Assiri. The US Treasury Dept. last year claimed al-Assiri “was the ringleader of the operation and coordinated with Saud al-Qahtani."
  • Khashoggi, whose columns were often critical of the prince and the kingdom’s government, was killed in 2018 at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. While the US intelligence community concluded that the crown prince ordered the operation, MBS denied any involvement.

Sources: Business Insider, New York Post, Al Jazeera, and CNN.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Washington Post. The granting of immunity to MBS prioritizes political glad-handing over human rights, and the judge saw right through it. Unfortunately, Bates, who called the allegations against MBS “credible,” couldn’t do more to hold the prince accountable because of the Biden administration's shady move.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Politico. Sovereign immunity exists as much to protect foreign figureheads as American leaders and diplomats from being subject to foreign laws, and it’s being applied properly to MBS. It’s customary to protect allied foreign heads of state from lawsuits. This isn't a question of whether Saudi Arabia violates human rights but whether the kingdom is firmly aligned with the US.