Saudi Prince faces war crimes allegations during Argentina visit

BUENOS AIRES • The Argentinian authorities are looking into possible criminal charges against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he prepares to attend an international summit of world leaders this week in Buenos Aires, officials involved in the inquiry said.

The inquiry, centring on allegations of war crimes during the Saudi-led military intervention in neighbouring Yemen, is the most significant test yet of Prince Mohammed’s ability to move past the international uproar that has surrounded him since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The investigation in Argentina, initiated by a complaint lodged by advocacy group Human Rights Watch, is in its early stages, and diplomatic or other kinds of immunity may ultimately shield the Prince from any potential charges.

Argentinian officials called it extremely unlikely that the inquiry might produce an arrest warrant before the gathering, which is set to begin on Friday.

But even a small risk of a messy dispute in the Argentinian courts could overshadow a trip previously seen as a chance for Prince Mohammed to show he remained welcome among world leaders even after the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that he had authorised the killing of Mr Khashoggi.

The law in Argentina is unusually favourable for bringing international human rights cases due to the legacy of the country’s transition from a military dictatorship. Argentinian law has incorporated a broad interpretation of universal jurisdiction, the doctrine that some serious rights violations constitute offences against humanity and should be subject to prosecution anywhere.

The Argentinian inquiry appears to centre on potential crimes committed during the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s Defence Minister and its de facto day-to-day ruler, has led a 31/2-year bombing campaign and naval blockade of Yemen by a coalition of Arab allies seeking to dislodge from power a Yemeni faction allied with Iran.

The conflict has resulted in widespread famine and disease as well as thousands of civilian casualties. The United Nations has called the results of the Yemen conflict the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and UN experts have said that both sides in the conflict may be guilty of war crimes.


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