Khashoggi Act Would Sanction Transnational Repression, Allow Lawsuits Against Government Perpetrators
October 2, 2023 (Washington, DC) – Members of Congress should pass two significant pieces of legislation introduced today, the Khashoggi Act and Khashoggi Resolution, on the fifth anniversary of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, said Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), the organization founded by the late Khashoggi.
The Khashoggi Act aims to protect activists and journalists by codifying the Khashoggi Ban and allow lawsuits in the United States against governments implicated in extraterritorial repression. The Khashoggi Resolution aims to honor Khashoggi's legacy by pledging continued action to hold the Saudi government accountable for human rights abuses.
"The Khashoggi Act and Khashoggi Resolution are not just pieces of legislation; they are a testament to unwavering congressional commitment to uphold the principles of human rights and freedom of the press," said Raed Jarrar, Advocacy Director for DAWN. "Five years ago, our founder Jamal Khashoggi paid the ultimate price for standing up to autocratic forces, and his legacy continues to guide our resolve."
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced the Jamal Khashoggi Act of 2023, first introduced in 2022. This Act provides a comprehensive legal framework to hold accountable those who target journalists and dissidents, making it a pivotal moment in the fight for human rights and press freedom. It codifies the Khashoggi Ban, a visa restriction policy issued by Secretary Blinken in 2020, which bans from travel to the United States individuals acting for a foreign government who are found to have engaged in serious, extraterritorial, counter-dissident activities. The Act also introduces the Khashoggi Amendment, which adds a new exception to sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act for lawsuits seeking damages against a foreign state for the personal injury or death of a U.S. person that is the result of an act of transnational repression.
"We should be able to sue and hold accountable foreign governments who murder and injure U.S. residents because of their political beliefs," said Jarrar.
In addition, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), both representing the district where Khashoggi resided, led 47 of their colleagues in introducing the Khashoggi Resolution. This resolution acknowledges the U.S. Government's sanctions on 17 Saudi individuals under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for their roles in Khashoggi's murder. It also calls on Saudi Arabia to ensure accountability for those responsible for the murder, release wrongfully detained individuals, lift travel bans on dissidents and former political prisoners, and ensure protection of freedoms like assembly, association, and the press.
"The United States has a moral imperative to hold perpetrators accountable and protect journalists and dissidents around the globe from similar acts of transnational aggression, said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director for DAWN. "The recent report about the Indian government's murder of a Canadian citizen perceived to be a political opponent should make clear that without serious accountability, these crimes will mushroom."