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State Department says Khashoggi's killing was a human rights abuse

Michael Beer holds a poster during a rally about the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia on Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington.

MATT MCCLAIN/THE WASHINGTON POST

By CAROL MORELLO | The Washington Post | Published: March 13, 2019

WASHINGTON — The State Department highlights the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by government agents in the annual human rights report released Wednesday, saying Saudi Arabia has an "environment of impunity" for officials suspected of human rights abuses.

The lengthy country report on Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, "was killed by government agents" on Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. It notes that the government initially said he left the consulate unharmed "but changed its story as facts came to light."

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who many believe personally ordered Khashoggi's killing, is not named in the section on Khashoggi, and is only mentioned once in passing in a separate section.

Five officials, including an adviser to the Royal Court, were dismissed in connection to the killing and 11 suspects were indicted. But the report said the Saudi government has not named the suspects and their alleged roles in the killing, nor offered details on the government investigation.

"In other cases the government did not punish officials accused of committing human rights abuses, contributing to an environment of impunity," the report states in a note of skepticism.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rejected allegations that the White House is covering up for the Saudi royal family in the interest of maintaining a relationship important to the administration's Middle East strategy.

Last month in Hungary, Pompeo said that the United States has taken "more action in response to the tragic murder of Jamal Khashoggi and will continue to take more action, continue our investigation."

"We are working diligently on that," he said. "The president has been very clear - couldn't be more clear - as we get additional information, we will continue to hold all of those responsible accountable."

This is the first annual human rights report issued by the State Department since Pompeo became secretary of state.

In a short preface to the report, Pompeo wrote that the United States finds it closest allies in countries that respect human rights.

"The policy of this Administration is to engage with other governments, regardless of their record, if doing so will further U.S. interests," he added. "At the same time, we recognize that U.S. interests in the enduring stability, prosperity, and security of a world filled with strong, sovereign states will only be served if governments respect human rights and fundamental freedoms."

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