Senators introduce bill to respond to Khashoggi killing
A bipartisan group of six senators introduced a bill Thursday aimed at forcing “meaningful accountability” for the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The bill is also seeks to push the parties in Yemen’s civil war toward a peace process and address the humanitarian crisis there. U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen has come under fire as lawmakers search for a response to the Khashoggi crisis.
“While the Trump administration’s announcement today of sanctions on 17 Saudi individuals is a welcome step, it is far from sufficient,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement. “There must be a transparent, credible investigation into Khashoggi’s murder and with this bill Congress is demonstrating its commitment to accountability and human rights. “
Menendez introduced the bill with Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Earlier Thursday, the Trump administration announced sanctions against 17 Saudis over their alleged role in Khashoggi’s death. It came hours after the Saudis announced the indictment of 11 people, with five facing the death penalty.
The Trump administration’s announcement represented its most sweeping response yet to the killing, which happened Oct. 2 when Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was strangled almost immediately after he entered the consulate and that his body was then dismembered and disposed of. Turkey called the Saudi announcement Thursday “unsatisfactory.”
In the United States, lawmakers called the Trump administration’s sanctions welcome, but said more needed to be done. The harshest criticisms accused the Trump administration of accepting the Saudi version of events and giving a pass to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who many are skeptical did not order the killing.
The bill introduced Thursday would require sanctions within 30 days on anyone involved in Khashoggi’s death, including “any official of the government of Saudi Arabia or member of the royal family” determined to be involved.
It would also require a report within 30 days on the kingdom’s human rights record.
“Our bill sends an important signal, and when combined with the efforts announced by the Treasury Department, goes a long way to address despicable behavior on several fronts,” Graham said in a statement.
To help address the Yemen crisis, the bill would suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and prohibit the U.S. military from refueling Saudi coalition aircraft.
The administration announced last week that aerial refueling was ending.
“The administration’s recent decision to suspend U.S. aerial refueling for the Saudi Coalition absent an actual strategy for ending this conflict is empty action,” Menendez said in his statement. “That is why this bill makes clear that Congress demands an immediate cessation of hostilities, urgently calls on all parties to prioritize protection of Yemeni civilians and makes certain that only a political settlement will end this war.”
The bill would also impose sanctions both on those blocking humanitarian access in Yemen and those supporting the Houthi rebels there.
And it would require the administration regularly brief Congress on the U.S. strategy to end the war, as well as give Congress a report on the causes and consequences of civilian harm in the war.
“This legislation provides the Trump administration leverage it should use to push all parties in Yemen to engage in good faith and urgent negotiations to end the civil war and address the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” Young said in a statement. “Our national security interests and our humanitarian principles demand nothing less.”