A US judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. US District Judge John Bates ruled yesterday in line with the Biden administration’s stance that Bin Salman has diplomatic immunity from being prosecuted in American courts as the head of a foreign state, a position to which he was only appointed in September this year.
Bates said that the civil lawsuit filed by Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, and Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) had credible allegations of Bin Salman’s involvement in Khashoggi’s murder. “Despite the Court’s uneasiness, then, with both the circumstances of Bin Salman’s appointment and the credible allegations of his involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, the United States has informed the Court that he is immune.”
The judge noted that he had “no power to reject the US government’s official stance, submitted in a formal statement to the court on 17 November, that the prince had immunity as a foreign leader.”
According to Bates, although the prince was only appointed head of the Saudi government a matter of weeks ago, the executive branch of the US administration remains “responsible for foreign affairs, including with Saudi Arabia, and a contrary decision on Bin Salman’s immunity by this Court would unduly interfere with those responsibilities.” He stressed that he has no choice in the matter but to dismiss the case.
“While we are disappointed in the decision,” said DAWN director Sarah Leah Whitson, “we will consider all options to continue our legal challenges to Bin Salman’s criminal behaviour.”