Legislation follows reports of abuse of U.S. weapons systems sold to Saudi Arabia and UAE
WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.)—along with Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)—today introduced the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2019, comprehensive legislation to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the Saudi-led coalition for its role in the devastating conflict in Yemen. The bill, which was originally introduced in 2018, prohibits certain arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as in-flight refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft.
The introduction of the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act coincides with the deadline for the Trump Administration to determine whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman is personally responsible for the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. In October, ranking member Menendez and then-chairman Corker triggered the investigation under the authorities of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act – a law that gives the President 120 days to determine whether a foreign individual is responsible for extrajudicial killings, and whether the President intends to impose sanctions on that person. The senators’ legislation also comes on the heels of a CNN investigation about U.S.-made military equipment sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ending up in the hands of Al-Qaeda and other adversaries of the United States.
“Seeing as the Trump Administration has no intention of insisting on full accountability for Mr. Khashoggi’s murderers, it is time for Congress to step in and impose real consequences to fundamentally reexamine our relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” said Senator Menendez. “But beyond preventing President Trump from sweeping Mr. Khashoggi’s murder under the rug, this comprehensive legislation is based on the idea that America’s leadership on the global stage must always be driven by a sense of purpose and moral clarity. We are reasserting that moral clarity by ending U.S. in-flight refueling for the Saudi-led Coalition’s operations in Yemen, suspending sales of certain weapons and hopefully preventing the tragic loss of more human life. As I warned the administration last year, we will not accept the killings of more civilians and journalists with impunity and without consequence.”
“The need to end the civil war and address the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains dire. This legislation provides the United States leverage it should use to push all parties in Yemen to engage in good faith and urgent negotiations. Our national security interests and our humanitarian principles demand nothing less,” said Senator Young.
“It has been 128 days since U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated by Saudi Arabia and still the Trump Administration refuses to take needed steps to hold them accountable. This bipartisan bill demands real accountability from Saudi leaders for human rights abuses, while taking a more active role in pushing for a negotiated settlement to end the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” said Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“One thing I learned during the Obama years is that when you look the other way regarding problems in the Middle East, it seldom works out,” said Senator Graham. “Likewise, it is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. I firmly believe there will be strong bipartisan support for serious sanctions against Saudi Arabia for this barbaric act which defied all civilized norms. While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic. I fully realize we have to deal with bad actors and imperfect situations on the international stage. However, when we lose our moral voice, we lose our strongest asset.”
“Saudi Arabia’s continued campaign of terrorizing innocent people and committing human rights violations in Yemen—and in their own country—requires a resolute, bipartisan response from Congress. I’m proud to stand firm with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to deliver that rebuke with this bipartisan bill,” said Senator Shaheen. “Saudi Arabia’s incessant bad behavior, which includes the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, cannot go unanswered. The United States’ role as a global leader is contingent on our commitment to human rights and democratic values, and it is imperative that we oppose any effort, domestic or foreign, that threatens those sacred tenets.”
“From the war in Yemen that has become a humanitarian disaster to the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia has committed egregious and unacceptable violations of human rights,” said Senator Collins. “By imposing sanctions and suspending arms sales, this bipartisan legislation puts Saudi Arabian leaders on notice that we do not support how they are conducting the war, nor will we tolerate their outrageous murder of Mr. Khashoggi.”
“The United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia is completely out of balance, to the detriment of our national interests and values. This bill makes clear that there will be no ‘back to normal’ until there is real accountability for the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi and, finally, an end to Mohammed bin Salman’s reckless war in Yemen. The American military, American weapons, America’s moral standing – none of these has any place in perpetuating this misbegotten war,” said Murphy.
Late last year, the Senate unanimously passed a Resolution naming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as "responsible" for the slaying of Jamal Khashoggi.
A copy of the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act can be found HERE. Key elements of this legislation include: