Prosecute the Prince
"The prince of darkness is a gentleman." William Shakespeare.
With the Attorney General confirmation hearing starting it is important to remember the recent events surrounding the execution of a Washington Post commentator.
"The stout man with the gray goatee and the gentle demeanor dared to disagree with his country's government. He told the world the truth about its brutality toward those who would speak out. And he was murdered for it." KARL VICK, Time Magazine.
Jamal Khashoggi's murder according to U.S. Intelligence agencies was ordered and supervised by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, aka MBS, the de-facto ruler of that country. Can he get away with it without any recompense?
The Trump administration, lacking the moral courage to criticize MBS, will pursue little or no sanctions for his brutal conduct. The pursuit of justice, however, is not completely unavailable to Mr. Khashoggi's family. In order to obtain any semblance of "justice" they will likely need to turn to a federal court in the form of a civil wrongful-death case utilizing the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). This is even though the Department of Justice has additional authority with a criminal statute (18 U.S.C.A. § 2340A) passed for the implementation of the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (known as the Torture Convention) to prosecute suspected torturers and co-conspirators to torture or murder, such as in the case of Jamal Khashoggi's murder ordered by MBS. This criminal prosecution could, however, only be pursued against MBS if he ever travels to the United States.
For practical reasons he would never subject himself to a criminal charge in the United States, so the only other alternative would be a civil action. The federal courts have pointed out the strong public-policy reasons for allowing an action against foreign actors who engage in torture, even against citizens of their own states. Court decisions have noted the legislative intent of Congress in passing the TVPA quoting from the Congressional Record: "A state that practices torture and summary execution is not one that adheres to the rule of law. Consequently, the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) is designed to respond to this situation by providing a civil cause of action in U.S. courts for torture committed abroad."
MBS isn't the only criminal despot who is subject to potential civil and criminal actions in the United States. For example, the Trump administration sanctioned Russia recently, alleging that President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government used a weapons-grade nerve agent to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in an assassination attempt in Great Britain. Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was assassinated in a widely reported operation in Malaysia using poison as well, which has been reportedly linked to orders of the North Korean tyrant.
This brings me to the elephant in the room. The decision maker for bringing a criminal case rests with the Attorney General, unlike a civil action, which can be brought by the victim's family. An interesting question in the confirmation process for America's next, new Attorney General would be: "Our intelligence agencies have provided the Senate with evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that MBS ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. If you are confirmed, would you seek an indictment against MBS for conspiracy to murder Jamal Khashoggi pursuant to the criminal torture statute if he traveled to the United States?" This question is not just one seeking a legal opinion. It goes to the heart of America's moral commitment to pursue justice against rogue leaders who violate international law using torture and murder to advance their sick agendas.
I hope this question is asked. It needs to be asked. America needs to know in what direction the new Attorney General's compass will be pointed.