The Biden administration ruled on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has immunity from any civil cases brought against him in the US because of his senior position as Saudi Arabia’s prime minister, effectively ending a last ditch attempt to hold the Saudi crown prince legally accountable for the journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
A lawsuit from Khashoggi’s former fiancée and Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a human rights group founded by the journalist, charged the Saudi de facto ruler of the 2018 killing.
US intelligence services had earlier concluded that the Saudi crown prince approved the killing.
However, the US administration now says bin Salman could not be prosecuted because of his senior position as Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and prime minister.
Earlier in September, MBS was appointed prime minister through a royal decree, as part of a cabinet reshuffle made by his father king Salman.
Last August, the District Court in Washington invited the Biden administration to weigh in on whether it believed Prince Mohammed should be granted sovereign immunity in the matter and agreed to give the US government an extension in October, only a few days before being appointed as a Prime Minister for the Kingdom.
The Biden administration could have issued its decision months ago, before appointing the crown prince as prime minister, if it was really serious about its campaign promise to hold Prince Mohammed accountable for Khashoggi’s murder.
Together for Justice has earlier warned over the White House’s move to delay a decision on MBS’ immunity over Khashoggi’s murder, saying that it would give the Saudi regime a licence to commit further human rights violations and abuses against political opponents and activists.
Rights attempts to hold MBS legal accountability for Khashoggi’s murder and other atrocities have so far failed, as Khashoggi’s killing has only triggered international condemnation.
The only remaining avenue for MBS to face some legal consequences was in the US, where Khashoggi’s fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, has filed a civil lawsuit against the crown prince for ordering the killing.
However, Senior Judge John D. Bates is likely to dismiss the civil case after the White House’s decision to grant MBS a legal immunity over Khashoggi’s killing.
To give legal immunity would give MBS a green light to kill and to commit more crimes and violations against activists, opponents.