Sanctions on 17 Saudi Officials First Step Toward Accountability in Khashoggi Murder

In response to the Trump Administration sanctioning 17 individuals for their involvement in the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, Human Rights First’s Senior Vice President for Policy Rob Berschinski issued the following statement:

The Trump Administration made the right decision to impose sanctions on the 17 named individuals, particularly with respect to Saud Al-Qahtani, a key advisor to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That said, in failing to sanction the crown prince or members of his inner circle, or taking other actions with respect to Saudi repression at home or its activities in Yemen, the administration isn’t taking a particularly strong stand in terms of accountability. 

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s message seems to leave room for additional sanctions and other accountability measures for other Saudi officials who played a role in Khashoggi’s killing, but in isolation today’s action is the minimum response to such an egregious act. I’m sure there are sighs of relief in Riyadh at the moment, but no one should describe today’s actions as a win for accountability or human rights.

The Treasury Department announced today that 17 individuals were sanctioned, including Saud Al-Qahtani and Consul General Mohammed Alotaibi, head of the Saudi consulate in which Khashoggi was killed. All 17 individuals are designated for human rights abuses.

On October 10, a bipartisan group of 22 senators, including all but one member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, addressed a letter to President Trump that invoked, for the first time, Section 1263(d) of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016. The letter gave President Trump 120 days to determine whether foreign officials were involved in the “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights;” and include “a statement of whether or not the President imposed or intends to impose sanctions with respect to the person.” Human Rights First called for Congress to take this step when news broke of the Khaggoshi murder.

For two years, Human Rights First has organized a global coalition of human rights and anti-corruption NGOs to work together to bring credible information to the U.S. government on potential sanctions designees under the Global Magnitsky Act.

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