In response to the disappearance and reported killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Human Rights First’s Senior Vice President for Policy Rob Berschinski issued the following statement:
While much remains unknown concerning Jamal Khashoggi’s whereabouts, this much we do know: the leaders of Saudi Arabia appear increasingly emboldened to persecute human rights defenders and critics both at home and abroad. It isn’t hard to see why, given that the Trump Administration has clearly signaled that Saudi’s rulers have carte blanche to jail activists, intimidate countries—like Canada—that stand for human rights, hold regional leaders hostage, and bomb Yemeni civilians.
Statements from the White House and State Department expressing concern are not enough, and calls for Saudi authorities to conduct an investigation into their own actions are laughable. U.S. officials should demand an immediate, independent investigation, and warn their Saudi counterparts that any sign of foul play will be met with significant consequences. On the table should be the imposition of targeted sanctions through the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Both the administration and members of Congress should also reconsider their support for the Saudi- and United Arab Emirates-led war in Yemen, a conflict threatening to starve millions.
This is what happens when the government of the United States abandons support for human rights. Those who seek to gain and hold power through violence and intimidation increasingly feel that they can act with impunity. If allowed to continue, this dynamic will result in a world that is less prosperous, less safe, and less free. If the Trump Administration won’t stand up for American ideals and American interests, Congress needs to step in.
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