Democratic lawmakers in the US House of Representatives proposed initiatives to impose sanctions on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the wake of the intelligence report that accused him of assassinating Jamal Khashoggi.
Representative Tom Malinowski has proposed a package of sanctions to prevent Saudi officials involved in Khashoggi’s killing from entering US territory.
Representative Ilhan Omar has introduced a more robust law that would impose financial penalties on bin Salman.
After the CIA report on Khashoggi’s killing was published, President Joe Biden imposed an entry visa ban on a group of Saudi officials.
Among them is the deputy head of Saudi intelligence, Ahmed Al-Asiri, but he refused to target the crown prince.
Biden had never considered punishing bin Salman, according to both CNN and The Washington Post.
And the actions taken by the Biden administration do not appear to be sufficient for many Democrats in Congress.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez has called for concrete action against bin Salman.
Not the end
“All these proposals show that Biden’s decision not to punish bin Salman is not the end of the day,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy in the Arab World.
Omar Omar’s bill would impose a visa ban on bin Salman and freeze his assets in the United States. In contrast, the bill proposes to lift the penalties if bin Salman is brought to trial for murder or if his innocence is proven or pay a fair price for the Khashoggi killing, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and other serious human rights violations.
“Every minute the crown prince escapes punishment, American interests, human rights, and the lives of Saudi dissidents are at risk,” said Ilhan.
“The United States imposes regular sanctions on foreign leaders who commit destabilizing acts of violence from Iran to Russia. We should not treat the Saudi crown prince differently.”
The bill led by Malinowski – sponsored by Representatives Jim McGovern (Democrat) and Andy Kim (Democrat) – does not expressly impose sanctions on bin Salman, including asset freezes.
Instead, the bill would impose a visa ban on officials mentioned in the declassified intelligence report, which implicitly includes the crown prince.
In this case, sanctions will not be lifted until Saudi Arabia fulfils various human rights conditions, including reducing the number of people detained for political reasons.
Malinowski will also ask the FBI and the Department of State and Intelligence to issue reports of Saudi threats and harassment against individuals residing in the United States every six months.
Such a measure could deprive Saudi Arabia of US arms sales.
Malinowski said that the bill reminds the world that no one is above the law in America. “I applaud the Biden administration for naming bin Salman as the Khashoggi killer.”
Neither bill proposes widespread sanctions of the kind that have been used against Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Syria.
Neither bill includes penalties for the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which has been linked to the murder.
Khaled al-Jabri, a Toronto-based cardiologist whose family has been targeted by the Saudi government, says punishing bin Salman is necessary to deter future crimes.
“The issuance of the report is a welcome state of transparency, but without direct accountability of the Crown Prince, his behaviour will not change, and his violations will continue.”
He continued, “Accountability is required not only because of Khashoggi’s heinous killing but because of the gross violations of human rights and intimidation of opponents inside and outside Saudi Arabia.”
Some experts believed that punishing bin Salman might push Saudi Arabia to push the prince away from the line of succession.
Others wonder whether trying to change the Saudi leadership is an achievable or worthwhile goal.