The British government has imposed sanctions on 20 Saudi nationals they believe were involved in the brutal murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
The sanctions are part of a package of measures targeting 49 individuals and organisations involved in some of the most notorious human rights violations and abuses in recent years.
It means the UK has new powers to stop those involved in serious human rights abuses and violations from entering the country, channelling money through UK banks, or profiting from the UK economy.
According to the British, the sanctioned men either organised Khashoggi’s murder, were directly involved in it, or concealed evidence of it.
They include several high-ranking Saudi officials who were close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including:
- Ahmad Hassan Mohammed Al Asiri who held the position of Deputy Head of the Saudi Intelligence services.
- Saud Al Qahtani who held the position of advisor to the Crown Prince in the Royal Court.
- Mansour Othman M Abahussain who held the position of Major General and worked in the office of the Crown Prince.
- Naif Hassan S Alarifi who held the position of First Lieutenant, External Intelligence, and worked in the Office of the Crown Prince.
- Abdulaziz Mohammed Al Hawsawi who was a security official for the Crown Prince.
- Mustafa Mohammed Al Madani who held the position of Brigadier General and Intelligence Officer in Saudi Arabia.
- Saif Saad Q. Alqahtani who was a training officer in the Saudi Air Force who worked in the Office of the Crown Prince.
The UK’s first wave of sanctions also targeted two high-ranking Myanmar military generals said to be involved in the systematic and brutal violence against the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, said: “Today we’re designating 49 people and organisations for responsibility in some the worst human rights abuses in recent memory. This is a demonstration of Global Britain’s commitment to acting as a force for good in the world.”
Saudi Arabia, a key British ally and business partner, has yet to react to the imposition of the sanctions.
The Saudi Arabian government changed its story on Khashoggi’s death several times. Initially, it denied the death and claimed that Khashoggi had left the Turkish consulate alive, and later it said he had been strangled inside the consulate during a fistfight.
But the “fistfight” story was later contradicted when Saudi Arabia’s attorney general said the murder was premeditated.
In September 2019, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated that he bore responsibility for Khashoggi’s assassination by Saudi operatives “because it happened under my watch.” However, he denied having any prior knowledge of the plot.
On 23 December 2019 a Saudi Arabia court issued the death penalty to five officials, with three others receiving 24-year prison sentences. Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf stated that Saudi Arabia’s verdict against the officials was a “whitewash.”