Mar 092021
 

At a time when news outlets are preoccupied by the fate of imprisoned princesses and fleeing princes and duchesses, I feel called upon to bring to your attention another piece of news about royalty.

In light of the fact that US authorities seem reluctant to take punitive action against the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (usually referred to as MBS), the non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has taken a somewhat unusual step.

RSF is trying to take MBS to court, no less, and to have him convicted of crimes that are routinely referred to as “heinous”, i.e. crimes against humanity.

The official phrasing of RSF’s actions so far is that they have:

filed a criminal complaint with the German Public Prosecutor General against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and [4] other high-ranking Saudi officials for crimes against humanity. The complaint concerns the widespread and systematic persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia, more specifically the imprisonment of 34 journalists and the assassination of Jamal Kashoggi.

The principle of universal jurisdiction with respect to crimes against humanity is enshrined in German Law. RSF may have chosen to request prosecution in Germany because a German court recently convicted a former Syrian secret police officer for his role in the torture of protesters. Anybody who has ever heard or read detailed accounts of protesters’ prison life in Syria will have wept for joy to hear the verdict. RSF has heard and read many, many such accounts.

The problem is, of course, that in most countries, even the judiciary is subject to political pressure. What would be the fallout for Germany of challenging MBS? Does the German prosecuting authority have the guts to go through with this?

There is every reason to cross our fingers here. These days, deluded “generals” are stampeding all over the place in Myanmar like rabid bulls, killing left, right and centre. The idea that some court might one day convict and sentence the generals may not comfort the victims, but it could discourage megalomaniacs from choosing killing sprees as a strategy. Even MBS has generally used more sophisticated means of repression.

(While you’re here, you might take a look at RSF’s country ranking index.)