Foreign Affairs Committee Advances Connolly's Saudi Dissidents Act
Washington, March 25, 2021
Tags: Foreign Policy
Today, the House Foreign Affairs advanced the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act, legislation authored by Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Connolly’s bill would hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Connolly’s constituent, and impose a cost to Saudi Arabia for continuing to engage in such acts of intimidation and violence going forward.
“The U.S. intelligence report assessing the role of the Saudi government in the cold-blooded murder of my constituent, Jamal Khashoggi, clearly and definitively lays responsibility on the Crown Prince.” Connolly said. “Now the question is, what is the United States going to do about it? The Committee’s action today in taking up this bill is a clear and forceful answer to that question. The United States will exercise its leverage to stop the Kingdom and the Crown Prince from acting with impunity to commit these gross human rights abuses.”
Specifically, the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act:
"The most recent revelations that Saudi officials issued death threats against UN human rights expert Agnes Callamard once again demonstrate the urgent need for action by the United States and the international community to reign in this pattern of egregious behavior by the Saudi government," said Dokhi Fassihian, interim Washington Director of PEN America. "We welcome the passage of the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act in committee today. Congress should pass this important legislation to make crystal clear that the rogue transnational acts of intimidation and violence that have become the character of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman's rule will not be tolerated."
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) said, “This legislation is an important step toward further accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and makes clear that attempts to stifle dissent do not come without consequence. It sends an important message to Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian governments that the United States will protect fundamental freedoms, internationally recognized human rights, and international law.”
Despite bipartisan congressional efforts to hold Saudi Arabia accountable, the Trump administration continued to provide arms and military training to the Saudis. Connolly successfully offered an amendment to the FY 2020 Appropriations Package that would bar Saudi Arabia from receiving assistance provided by the International Military Education and Training program.
Connolly’s full statement at today’s hearing follows:
H.R. 1392, Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA)
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.
Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization.”
This is word-for-word text from the previously classified U.S. intelligence report assessing the role of the Saudi government in the cold-blooded murder of my constituent, Jamal Khashoggi. It is all there.
Now the question is, what is the United States going to do about it? The Committee’s action today in taking up this bill, the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act, is a clear and forceful answer to that question. The United States will exercise its leverage to stop the Kingdom and the Crown Prince from acting with impunity to commit these gross human rights abuses.
I want to thank Chairman Meeks and Ranking Member McCaul for working with me to strengthen this bill and ensure that we accomplish our stated intent.
The bill is targeted and does 4 things:
This bill has the support of:
And I request unanimous consent to enter into the record:
· A May 2019 New York Times article entitled “It Wasn’t Just Khashoggi: A Saudi Prince’s Brutal Drive to Crush Dissent”
· A January 2019 New Yorker article entitled “The Saudi Government’s Global Campaign to Silence Its Critics”
· A November 2018 Washington Post article entitled “Saudi campaign to abduct and silence rivals abroad goes back decades”
· An October 2018 New York Times article entitled “‘Our Hands Can Reach You’: Khashoggi Case Shakes Saudi Dissidents Abroad”
I have met with the family members of victims of Saudi Arabia’s war on dissent. I have worked with them to fight for their loved ones’ release from unjust imprisonment. I have worked with the Aljabri family and the siblings of Loujain Al-Hathloul to advance this bill. And I am currently fighting for my constituents Salah Al-Haider and Aziza Al-Yousef as they battle political persecution in Saudi Arabia.
And to those who think Saudi Arabia is changing its behavior: I asked unanimous consent to enter into the record a report from Tuesday which has been confirmed by the UN, “UN Special Rapporteur says top Saudi official issued death threat against her for role in Khashoggi investigation.” Now, I have met with Agnès Callamard. She is not going to be intimidated, but the very fact this thuggish behavior is happening in the open at the UN and that the Saudi delegation actually had to be warned by the UN that this was unacceptable, conveys the sense of invincibility felt by the Kingdom and its officials.
I also ask unanimous consent to enter into the record the report for which Ms. Callamard’s life is now being threatened, the June 2019 Report on Jamal Khashoggi’s Killing by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings.
Please join me in sending a message to human rights defenders, dissidents, and journalists worldwide reaffirming the unshakable American commitment to basic rights and freedoms and ending what Jamal’s editor at the Washington Post has referred to as a “two-year pageant of impunity” by finally holding Saudi Arabia accountable.