The United States should investigate what role, if any, Egyptian officials played in the killing of Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, and disclose those findings publicly, said eight human rights organizations today.
On June 21, Yahoo! News reported that Egyptian officials provided training to Saudi Arabia’s “Tiger Team,” the covert force found to be responsible for Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The Biden Administration imposed sanctions on members of the Tiger Team in February 2021 following the declassification of a U.S. intelligence report on Khashoggi’s murder and subsequent dismemberment.
The Yahoo! News report emerged just a day before Egypt’s General Intelligence Service head Abbas Kamel was due to arrive in Washington, DC for a round of meetings with U.S. intelligence officials and policymakers; he is the most senior Egyptian official to visit the United States since Biden took office. The possible role of Egyptian authorities in Khashoggi’s murder was not detailed in the declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Biden Administration and the U.S. Congress should examine whether Egyptian authorities did play a role in Khashoggi’s killing, and, if so, apply appropriate sanctions and pursue other means of accountability. Appropriate congressional committees should investigate whether Egypt’s role was disclosed to the US as part of its security and intelligence-sharing relationship.
U.S. officials outlined commitments to human rights in the interim national security strategy. Holding all actors to account for the murder of Khashoggi is critical to upholding these commitments and must be made an urgent priority.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is presiding over Egypt’s worst human rights crisis in recent years. Under his watch, Egyptian officials have committed wide-ranging violations of human rights from extended and arbitrary pre-trial detention and the imprisonment of tens of thousands on politically motivated charges to serious abuses in its military campaign in North Sinai and a systematic crackdown on nongovernmental organizations and human rights defenders. The Biden administration has continued to seek to provide Egypt with $1.3 billion in foreign military financing, which it has received annually for decades, despite an escalation of rights abuses and commitment by the Biden administration to center human rights in foreign policy.
“Biden has pledged to put human rights at the forefront of US foreign policy. That has to include exposing human rights abusers and holding them to account regardless of their relationship to the United States. The last thing Egypt’s intelligence service needs from the US is a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Andrea Prasow said.
“It is imperative that President Biden keep his verbal commitment to defend press freedom. The administration must ensure that this new information is fully investigated, and all those found to have been involved in Khashoggi’s murder are held accountable. Anything less will send a message that this behavior is acceptable and leave already endangered journalists around the world at greater risk,” said Michael De Dora from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Committee to Protect Journalists
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
Reporters Without Borders
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
The Freedom Initiative
Photo Credit: AbdelFattah Elsisi / Facebook