Rep. McCollum Introduces "Jamal Khashoggi Protection for Dissidents and Journalists Act of 2022," Codifying Biden Administration's Khashoggi Ban
(Washington, D.C. September 30, 2022) – Four years since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) and his Saudi co-conspirators, actions for accountability for the murderand similar acts of extraterritorial repression, including legislative initiatives, an ongoing lawsuit against MBS, and the first memorial in the world to the slain journalist, are making important advances, said Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), the organization founded by Khashoggi.
The group announced the introduction of the "Jamal Khashoggi Protection for Dissidents and Journalists Act of 2022" (H.R. 9064) by Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), which codifies the Khashoggi Ban sanctioning perpetrators of extrajudicial repression, and McCollum's proposed "Khashoggi Amendment" to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which would allow U.S. plaintiffs to sue foreign states when they injure or kill a U.S. resident abroad for his dissident activities, such as the Saudi murder of Khashoggi.
"The advances we've made just this year in our pursuit for truth and accountability for Khashoggi's murder – from legislation, to our lawsuit, to the memorial in Washington D.C. – will serve to protect the freedom of all critics of abusive governments around the world," said Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN's executive director. "If the Saudi government thought they could brush this murder under the rug with petrodollar-fueled bribes, we're showing them every single day that they're not going to get away with it."
At a virtual commemoration event held today, entitled "Advances Toward Justice for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Four Years Later," speakers included U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04); Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL-07); U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen; Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA-17); Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08); Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18); Secretary General of Amnesty International and former Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard; DAWN Board Member and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman; and DAWN's Executive Director Sarah Leah Whitson. The speakers paid homage to the courageous Saudi dissident Khashoggi, reflected on DAWN and its partners' efforts to hold his killers accountable; and discussed the legislative and judicial advances made to defend against extraterritorial repression and end U.S. support for abusive governments in the Middle East.
"By using his voice to report the truth, [Jamal Khashoggi's] work proved to be too grave a threat to Mohamad bin Salman's authoritarian rule in Saudi Arabia. This Sunday will be four years since this horrific event, and it's critical that we not let his memory or his legacy be forgotten. That is why I'm introducing the Jamal Khashoggi Act. This legislation would codify current State Department policy known as the 'Khashoggi Ban' into law, allowing the US to impose visa bans and monetary fines on those who suppress, harass, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or anyone perceived to be political dissidents for their work," said Congresswoman McCollum during the virtual memorial event. "This legislation would also codify the Khashoggi Amendment, which will allow United States plaintiffs to sue foreign states for committing serious violations. This will send a clear message. To authoritarian regimes around the world, crossing international borders to harm dissidents will not be tolerated by the United States."
"Jamal Khashoggi dedicated his life to exposing corruption, injustice, and brutality – the very forces that tragically cut his life short, when he was killed by Saudi agents seeking to silence his voice and diminish the power of the free press," Rep. Schiff said. "As co-chair of the Congressional Freedom of the Press Caucus, I have fought for years for legislation that would impose accountability for such heinous crimes and this bill will further those efforts. The United States must send a powerful message to those complicit in Khashoggi's murder, and to all foreign entities that systematically harass, suppress, and threaten dissidents and journalists: such anti-democratic attacks will be met with real, meaningful and punishing consequences."
DAWN and other non-governmental organizations played an important role in urging the Administration to adopt the Khashoggi Ban, which the Khashoggi Protection Act seeks to codify. The ban provides a mechanism to deny visas to foreign government officials engaged in extraterritorial counter-dissident activities. Announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on February 2, 2021, the Ban was implemented with the launch of the "Khashoggi Ban Working Group" in August 2021. In recognition of its key role in pushing for the Ban, DAWN became the first Chair of the Working Group, a civil society coalition that works in coordination with the U.S. State Department to develop the guidelines for implementation of the Khashoggi Ban. DAWN also submitted the name of the first individual to be considered by the Working Group, and took the lead in facilitating and recording a training video as a model for future Khashoggi Ban submissions.
"The Khashoggi Ban put Saudi and other foreign government officials on notice that they will be held accountable for violating the human rights of activists, dissidents and their families whether within or outside their countries," said DAWN's Advocacy Director Raed Jarrar. "As the abusers target their own citizens, we will target them, exposing, sanctioning, and banning them from the U.S."
DAWN and Co-plaintiff Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiance, have continued to press our lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, DC against Crown Prince MBS and 28 other accomplices seeking civil damages for the murder of our founder. On June 4, 2021, Crown Prince MBS and two other defendants filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit claiming various defenses, including lack of jurisdiction and sovereign immunity as head of state. DAWN and Cengiz filed an opposition to the defendants' motions. The court has scheduled an oral argument on the defendants' motions to dismiss for November 2, 2022. On July 1, 2020, the district court invited the U.S. government to issue a statement of interest pertaining to the act-of-state doctrine, head-of-state immunity and the sovereign interests of Saudi Arabia. The U.S. government has until October 3rd to issue such a statement. On September 27, 2022, King Salman appointed MBS as Saudi Prime Minister in an apparent ploy to strengthen his case for immunity under the head-of-state doctrine.
"We are confident that neither the Biden administration nor the court will pay any heed to MBS's desperate ploy to gain immunity by virtue of his made up title and so long as his father, King Salman, remains the country's true head of state," said Whitson. "Regardless of how the court rules on MBS's immunity ploy, we will continue to press our lawsuit against all remaining defendants, and we intend to commence discovery of all relevant facts, including MBS's role in the murder."
DAWN also played a key role in urging the Washington, DC Council to rename the street in front of the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. as "Jamal Khashoggi Way," which stands today as the first memorial honoring Khashoggi. Renaming the street fulfilled one of the recommendations of the United Nations, as set forth in the former U.N. Special Rapporteur Callamard's investigation and report on the extrajudicial assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi Way will now serve as a constant reminder to all who pass, including Saudi diplomats, that the Saudi government, including the man who ordered Khashoggi's murder, must be held accountable.
Four years on, DAWN continues the work of our founder, helping to promote democracy and human rights in the MENA region. In the last year, DAWN has continued to target the regional culprits and U.S. lobbyists who aid and abet the most abusive governments in the Middle East in its Culprits Gallery and Lobbyist Hall of Shame. DAWN is working to promote legislative reforms that will ban the access of lobbyists for abusive governments to U.S. officials, and also bar U.S. officials from subsequently seeking employment with foreign governments.
DAWN has also worked through its publication Democracy in Exile to serve as an institutional platform for political exiles from the Middle East to express their ideas and their prescriptions for democratic reform in the MENA region. By providing a platform for dissidents and including them in policy meetings in Washington, DAWN seeks to ensure their voices are part of the discussion about the persistent, undying imperative for democracy and freedom in the Middle East.
In addition, DAWN has continued, through its advocacy, to make efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy to promote rather than hinder democracy and human rights in the region, and to cease propping up dictators, tyrants, and brutal apartheid governments in the region.
"We have worked behind the scenes to challenge every arms sale, or arms gift, to abusive governments who certainly do not represent the interests of the people they rule over," Whitson said. "Though the Biden Administration has broken promise after promise to promote and defend human rights in the region, DAWN persists in its efforts to change the approach of the U.S. foreign policy community so that the U.S. will match its conduct with its rhetoric of support for freedom and democracy."