Merkley, Colleagues Introduce Resolution Demanding Accountability for Saudi Human Rights Abuses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced a new Senate resolution calling for accountability for Saudi Arabia’s numerous human rights violations, and requiring the State Department to produce a report determining whether the Kingdom has committed “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

The resolution also requires the Trump Administration to provide further information on the possible involvement of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) in the assassination of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, and on whether the Saudi-led military coalition is taking any steps to limit civilian casualties in its war in Yemen.

Merkley was joined on today’s resolution by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

“Over the last several years, Saudi Arabia has become more brazen than ever before in its malign activities and shocking human rights violations,” said Merkley. “The Kingdom is conducting a brutal and bloody war in Yemen, inflicting thousands of civilian casualties and creating the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world today. It committed a coldblooded assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident. And Saudi Arabia continues to commit grievous human rights abuses against its own residents, like the jailing and threatened execution of women’s rights activists who dared to push the Kingdom to evolve in its extremely restrictive treatment of women and girls. Unacceptably, the Trump Administration has not stood up to Saudi leaders, but has instead rewarded them with smiling photo ops and ever-bigger arms deals, compromising our values and our standing in the world. It’s time for a reckoning and a full accounting of Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations, and that’s what our resolution requires.”

“The government of Saudi Arabia has long had one of the worst human rights records in the world,” said Sanders. “Since Muhammad bin Salman became crown prince in 2017, it has gotten even worse. The Saudi government should release the many political activists it has unjustly imprisoned, must give a full accounting of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and cease its disastrous war in Yemen, which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Furthermore, the Trump administration’s refusal to criticize Saudi abuses dramatically undermines the United States’ ability to advance a human rights agenda around the world, empowering extremists and undemocratic leaders who insist that our support for those rights and values is not serious.”

“President Trump has ignored the requirements of the Magnitsky Act, which applies to the Saudi Crown Prince,” said Leahy. “The Saudi Government has engaged in a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights, in violation of section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act.  This White House talks about the rule of law, and then flaunts the law it when it suits them — in this instance, to shield the Crown Prince from accountability for the premeditated murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  This Resolution reaffirms that the Congress will continue to pursue the whole truth about the Saudi Royal Family’s crimes.”

“Congress must continue to keep pressure on the Trump Administration to hold the Saudis accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and ongoing violations of human rights violations – including unjust detention of activists, journalists, and minorities,” said Blumenthal. “As the Trump Administration continues to curry favor with regimes that violate human rights and perpetrate gruesome crimes, I am pleased to join my Senate colleagues in demanding accountability and transparency.”

“Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, including the brutal murder of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, are unacceptable. Yet this Administration has given the Crown Prince its full-throated endorsement. That’s why Congress must speak out. This resolution condemns these abuses and calls on the President to sanction the Saudi leadership, consistent with the law. I urge the Senate to take up this measure immediately,” said Van Hollen.  

“The fact that the Saudi regime would recently double down on the six month anniversary of its cold blooded murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and arrest several more of its civic activists is outrageous,” said Durbin. “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has learned nothing from the international outrage regarding his barbaric actions and believes he can act with impunity from the Trump Administration.  Such behavior will not go unnoticed in Congress.”  

“The Saudi regime has repressed peaceful dissent for decades, but the Crown Prince has presided over a series of new lows, from arresting US citizens to the horrific war in Yemen to the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi,” said Wyden. “The Senate should make clear to Donald Trump that his business as usual with the Saudis is no longer an option.”

“President Trump can’t continue to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s actions under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman,” said Feinstein. “The murder of a U.S. resident in a Saudi consulate, the ongoing atrocities being committed in Yemen and the numerous violations of human rights, particularly those against women, is not behavior the United States should support. It’s time for the Trump administration to hold the Saudi government accountable.”

“This Administration has turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the arrest of civil rights activists, and the humanitarian catastrophe that is the Yemen Civil War.  Most recently, we have seen reports that this Administration has made secret authorizations for the transfer or nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. This resolution is about sending a loud and clear message that the United States cannot continue to stand behind a regime that grossly violates human rights,” said Kaine.

Merkley’s resolution comes as there is increasing congressional pressure on the Trump Administration to stand up to Saudi Arabia. Both the House and Senate recently passed—with strong bipartisan support—a resolution that would end U.S. support for Saudi’s bombing campaign in Yemen. And at hearings this week, Senators sharply criticized Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the administration’s defiance of the Global Magnitsky Act. The administration has refused to make a determination on whether MBS was involved in the assassination of Khashoggi, which would trigger sanctions, despite legal requirements that it do so.

In February, Merkley led a bipartisan resolution with Senators Paul (R-KY) and Markey (D-MA) setting out that any civilian nuclear cooperation “123” agreement with Saudi Arabia should meet the strongest nonproliferation “gold-standard,” to deny the Kingdom the ability to develop a nuclear weapon – all the more vital with the discovery this week of a Saudi Arabian ballistic missile base and test facility.

The full text of Merkley’s resolution is available here.