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Home / World / America / US senator introduces bill to punish bin Salman, Saudi over rights abuses

US senator introduces bill to punish bin Salman, Saudi over rights abuses

WASHINGTON: A senior Republican senator in the US Congress has introduced a bipartisan bill that would punish Saudi Arabia for its extensive violations of human rights, including the war on the people of Yemen and over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Senator James Risch, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday that the bipartisan Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Review Act calls for a detailed look at relations between the US and Saudi Arabia and seeks to hold accountable Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other members of the kingdom’s royal family for human rights abuses.

“It is the sense of Congress that since the promotion of Mohammed bin Salman to the position of Crown Prince with significant authorities over foreign and domestic affairs … Saudi Arabia has demonstrated increasingly erratic and disturbing conduct,” the bill states.

Bin Salman authorized the Yemen war with help from the United Arab Emirates and a number of other regional Arab regimes in March 2015, when he was only the kingdom’s defense minister.

The ongoing aggression, which was supposed to destroy the Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstate Riyadh-allied fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, has killed thousands of Yemeni people and destroyed most of the impoverished country’s infrastructures without fulfilling any of bin Salman’s objectives.

The deadly campaign has prompted fire from world leaders and activist groups, who think bin Salman should be held accountable for Riyadh’s atrocities.

Bin Salman is also under pressure for the murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

Riyadh first denied that the dissident journalist had been killed but later on claimed that “rogue” officers within the Saudi intelligence had ordered and carried out the hit job.

CIA assessments, however, have found that bin Salman was indeed behind the gruesome murder of the US-based Washington Post contributor.

Trump has so far refused to go after bin Salman, saying punishing him for the murder would endanger arms sales to Saudi and put Israel at risk.

Risch’s bill asks President Donald Trump to deny or revoke visas for members of the royal family to force the kingdom to address its human rights record.

However, to make sure that Trump won’t reject the bill, Risch’s bill stops short of blocking America’s arms sales to Riyadh.

Congress recently voted to block billions of dollars in arms sales to several allies, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, after Trump issued an emergency declaration which allowed him to skip congressional review of the arms sales to these two countries.

Trump argues that the weapons sales to Middle East allies are a measure to counter what he sees as a threat from Iran and that they help create more jobs back home.

“Our partners desperately need the capabilities in these sales complemented by other US training and advising initiatives to improve their ability to minimize collateral damage and deter aggression,” Risch argued.

“I am really hoping that all of us can come together and pass a piece of legislation” that provides “a bipartisan method for re-evaluating our relationship”, Risch added.

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