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House passes Gerry Connolly’s Saudi Dissidents Act

(© W. Scott McGill –

The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to pass the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act, legislation authored by Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Connolly’s bill is aimed at holding Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Connolly’s constituent, that was adopted on a bipartisan basis by the House.

This bill ensures justice and accountability more than two years after Jamal’s death, and impose a cost to Saudi Arabia for continuing to engage in such acts of intimidation and violence going forward.

“The U.S. intelligence report assessing the role of the Saudi government in the cold-blooded murder of my constituent, Jamal Khashoggi, clearly and definitively lays responsibility on the Crown Prince.” Connolly said. “The House has sent a clear and forceful message to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and perpetrators of gross human rights abuses. Impunity stops with this legislation.”

Specifically, the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act:

  • Limits arms exports to Saudi intelligence, internal security, or law enforcement entities if the President finds that Saudi Arabia has engaged in the following activities:
  • Forced repatriation, intimidation, or killing of dissidents in other countries.
  • The unjust imprisonment in Saudi Arabia of United States citizens or residents or the placing of travel restrictions on them or their family members.
  • And the torture of detainees in the custody of the Government of Saudi Arabia.
  • Requires the closure of one or more Saudi diplomatic facilities if the President finds that Saudi is using diplomatic or consular personnel to harass or harm Saudi nationals in the United States.
  • Requires a report on whether Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a consistent pattern of acts of intimidation or harassment directed against individuals in the United States.
  • Requires a report on whether the U.S. intelligence community fulfilled its duty to warn Jamal Khashoggi of threats to his life.

“The bipartisan passage of the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act in the U.S. House of Representatives sends an unequivocal message to the Saudi government that the United States will not tolerate extraterritorial acts of violence and intimidation to silence dissent,” said Dokhi Fassihian, interim Washington Director of PEN America. “Today’s vote reaffirms Congress’s commitment to defending freedom of expression and strengthens accountability for the Kingdom’s targeting of independent Saudi voices abroad, most infamously with the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khasoggi. We thank Congressman Connolly for his leadership on this issue, and hope Congress will continue to work to hold Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman accountable for the murder of Khashoggi, and send a clear message that such heinous acts will have consequences.”

“It’s been over two years since the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi and reports show that egregious violations of human rights against Saudi Arabian citizens are only increasing,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Manager for Middle East Policy at Friends Committee on National Legislation. “Representative Connolly’s bill, The Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act, is a commonsense step that would create real consequences and accountability, including the end of the sale of offensive weaponry to Saudi, if basic human rights protections for U.S. and Saudi citizens are not met. Passing this bill is essential if we want justice for Jamal and every human rights activist living in fear of retaliation at the hands of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government.”

Despite bipartisan congressional efforts to hold Saudi Arabia accountable, the Trump administration continued to provide arms and military training to the Saudis. Connolly successfully offered an amendment to the FY 2020 Appropriations Package that would bar Saudi Arabia from receiving assistance provided by the International Military Education and Training program.

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