Connolly's Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act Passes Foreign Affairs Committee

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Washington, October 1, 2020 | comments

Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Saudi Dissidents Act, legislation authored by Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable for Jamal Khashoggi’s death and other attacks on critics of the Kingdom.

“Two years ago, on October 2, 2018, my constituent and lawful U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi was lured into a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was murdered in cold blood and dismembered by agents of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, reportedly at the direction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and with the false assurances of safety given to Jamal by the Saudi Ambassador to the United States,” Connolly said. “No one should be subjected to such a horrific crime, and those responsible – no matter how high it goes -  must be held accountable.”  

“Our legislation sends a strong and clear statement that the United States opposes the forced repatriation, intimidation, or killing of Saudi dissidents and critics abroad, and it would ensure that the United States is in no way enabling such human rights abuses,” Connolly added. “Failure to take action and turning a blind eye to these abuses will only enable the Saudi’s global intimidation campaign.”

“On the second anniversary of the brutal murder of my beloved Jamal, I welcome all efforts to honor his memory by adopting laws that prevent persons like Jamal being unjustifiably intimidated and targeted. We must never allow what happened to Jamal to ever occur again,” said Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée.  “The perpetrators at the highest level must be held accountable for his murder, and our countries must be kept safe from those who seek to undermine democracy and our most cherished freedoms.”

The Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act:

  • Bans the sale of U.S. weapons to Saudi intelligence, law enforcement, or internal security unless the Secretary of State can certify that these agencies are not involved in forced repatriation, silencing, or killing of Saudi dissidents in other countries;
  • Enhances Congressional oversight on whether the Government of Saudi Arabia was engaged in a consistent pattern of acts of intimidation or harassment directed against Jamal Khashoggi or any individual in the United States and whether any United States-origin defense articles were used in those activities;
  • Requires the President to close at least one Saudi diplomatic facility in the United States if Saudi diplomats are using diplomatic credentials, visas, or diplomatic facilities to facilitate monitoring, tracking, surveillance, or harassment of, or harm to, other nationals of Saudi Arabia living in the United States; and 
  • Improves Congressional oversight of the intelligence community regarding the extent to which the intelligence community fulfilled its duty to warn Jamal Khashoggi of threats to his life and liberty.

The U.S. intelligence community assessed that MBS ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s murder. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary killings concluded that Mr. Khashoggi “has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law.”

Mr. Khashoggi is not the only victim of Saudi Arabia’s international campaign of intimidation, disappearances, and assassinations. For example, Dr. Saad Aljabri, a former Saudi intelligence official, in a recent court filing accused MBS of ordering his assassination in a plot that involved surveillance and transit through the United States by the would-be assassins. Saudi authorities arrested two of Dr. Aljabri’s adult children in March and they have not been seen or heard from since. Additionally, Loujain al-Hathloul, an outspoken women’s rights activist, was arrested in the UAE in 2018, and deported to Saudi Arabia, where she was jailed for a few days.  A couple months later, she was re-arrested and reportedly subjected to torture and sexual harassment. Ms. al-Hathloul remains in detention without charge until today.

The Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act is supported by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, PEN America, Project on Middle East Democracy, Freedom House, Freedom Initiative, Human Rights First, Freedom Forward, Friends Committee on National Legislation,  Saudi American Justice Project, Human Rights Watch, ALQST for Human Rights, Center for International Policy, CODEPINK, MENA Rights Group, and Freedom Now.

Immediately following Khashoggi’s murder, Connolly spoke with the Washington Post about how the Saudi’s should be held accountable. Video is available here.

Text of the legislation is available here.

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