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Rights abuses: Bill introduced in US Senate Committee on Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON: The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Jim Risch, has introduced legislation punishing Saudi Arabia over human rights abuses and criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

However, the legislation does not seek halting weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

The proposed legislation is part of efforts in Congress to hold the kingdom accountable for rights abuses, including the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey and a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.

“The Crown Prince has frequently behaved in a reckless manner, including arresting those opposed to his rule,” the bill said.

It added that MBS actions could significantly harm US-Saudi relations.

However, the Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Review Act would not block weapons sales to Riyadh, focusing instead on barring travel by many members of the Saudi royal family who work in its government.

Risch said his goal was legislation that addresses rights abuses, but that President Donald Trump would sign. “This is an honest effort to get a bill that can pass and become law,” he told reporters.

It was not clear whether Risch’s bill would be considered strong enough to win Senate approval.

Although Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a Senate majority, the chamber last month defied him by voting to block $8 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries.

A handful of Republicans joined Democrats to pass resolutions opposing the sales, rejecting Trump’s decision to sidestep Congressional review of such deals by declaring an emergency over threats from Iran, although with too few votes to override a presidential veto.