WASHINGTON - In a sweeping vote of 405 to 7 the House has passed H.R. 2037, The Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability Act of 2019.
This bipartisan bill was introduced by New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-7,and seeks accountability for last year's targeted assassination of Jamal Khashoggi a Washington Post columnist. The text of the bill was also included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House on July 12th.
The legislation requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to provide Congress and the American people an answer to a simple question: Who was responsible for ordering, planning, carrying out, and covering up the murder of Jamal Khashoggi? The provision would then sanction the individuals listed by the DNI by stripping them of eligibility to visit the United States. Finally, the bill requires a report from the Secretary of State on the broader human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.
Below is a transcript of Malinowski’s remarks during floor debate on the bill July 15th:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Chairman Engel, for your leadership on this issue. I also want to recognize Ranking Member McCaul, all my colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee for working with me to ensure that we could move forward with this bill in a bipartisan way.
All of us agree that our relationship with Saudi Arabia is important, but we equally agree that how the Saudi government treats its people and the people of other countries is important. We’ve known this for a long time, I think, but last year’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government makes it especially important that we take meaningful action in defense of our interests and our values.
When I was campaigning for congress last year in New Jersey, foreign policy issues did not come up very often, and yet the murder of Jamal Khashoggi somehow broke through the noise. I was asked about it a lot. I think this is because people understand that while human rights violations in countries like Saudi Arabia are all too common, what happened to Khashoggi was not common. He was not killed, after all, inside Saudi Arabia. He was a resident of the United States. And yet, the Saudi government lured him into one of their embassies on the soil of a NATO country where it brutally slaughtered him.
Many governments around the world abuse their people, very few governments reach out beyond their borders to kidnap or kill people living in other countries. Russia has done it. Iran has reportedly done it, but this kind of crime is very rare. It is profoundly in our interest to keep it rare, and that is why it is essential that we name and hold accountable those who are responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
We need to do this not just because what the Saudi government did was wrong, but because it crossed a line that no partner of the United States should ever be allowed to cross. Not just because it showed a lack of respect for human rights, but because it demonstrated a lack of respect for the United States.
Let’s remember that there are thousands of Jamal Khashoggis living in America today. Men and women who have taken refuge in our country from dictatorships around the world and who sometimes speak up about injustices in their countries of origin. If the Saudi government gets away with what it did to a resident of the United States, what is to stop China or Russia or Cuba or Iran or North Korea or Venezuela or any other dictatorship from doing the same?
We know it’s not their scruples that hold them back. The only thing that stops them is their fear of the consequences if they do this to somebody living in our country or to an American abroad. That is why there have to be consequences. Our bill ensures that there will be. It requires the director of national intelligence to give us a list of everyone, without exception, whom the intelligence community believes to be responsible for planning, executing or covering up this terrible crime. All on this list will be subject to a visa ban. The sanctions can only be lifted if the Saudi government takes meaningful steps to reform human rights conditions in the kingdom.
Mr. Chair, it’s clear that while the Saudi government has faced a lot of rhetorical condemnation for what they did to Jamal Khashoggi, it has not yet gotten the message. We know that the FBI has visited at least 4 Saudi dissidents living in the United States since Khashoggi’s murder to warn them about the threats to their lives from Saudi Arabia, including as recently as six weeks ago. The Saudis also continue to imprison American citizens without trial or charge despite repeated requests from the Trump administration for their release. While I appreciate the State Department has sanctioned several Saudis for their involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, this action also risks sending the wrong message. By only sanctioning the rogues, whom the Saudis themselves are willing to throw under the bus for this crime, we risk reinforcing the Saudi crown prince’s lie that the murder of Khashoggi was a rogue operation.
The relationship with Saudi Arabia is important, but it is not so important that we have to lie for the Saudis or allow them, literally, to get away with murder. No relationship and no individual is so important that we need to debase ourselves in that way. Now is the time to send the message, especially now, before Mohammed bin Salman ascends to the Saudi throne, that this is wrong. Now is the time to make clear that reckless behavior, whether the murder of an American resident or the kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister or the blockade of Qatar, carry a price; That the men who rule Saudi Arabia, who after all depend far more on us than we depend on them, need to take our interests and values into account rather than always counting on us to cover up for them. Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.”