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Ilhan Omar wants MBS sanctioned under Magnitsky Act

The Minnesota Democrat doesn't think there's been enough done to punish the Saudi Crown Prince for Jamal Khashoggi's murder.

North America

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) has proposed an amendment that could expose Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s private businesses to sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act.

Omar’s amendment would strengthen the Khashoggi Accountability Act, currently up for consideration by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to include potential economic penalties on Saudi officials.

In February, the Biden administration declassified a U.S. intelligence report on the assassination of Saudi-American journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The report points the finger at the crown prince, often known by his initials MBS, but the Biden administration has declined to impose sanctions on him, citing the need to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

In response, Omar and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D–N.J.) proposed bills that would force the administration to move against the crown prince.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee chose last week to move forward with Malinowski’s Khashoggi Accountability Act, which imposes a travel ban but not economic penalties on Saudi officials mentioned in the U.S. intelligence report on Khashoggi’s murder.

Omar’s amendment to that bill would require the U.S. State Department to issue a report within six months all private organizations and businesses owned in whole or in part by those officials, including MBS.

The State Department would have to certify whether those organizations played a role in Khashoggi’s murder or “any other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” and whether those organizations are subject to sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

The Global Magnitsky Act, passed in 2016 in memory of a lawyer who died in Russian police custody, imposes economic penalties and a visa ban on foreign officials “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

As Responsible Statecraft had previously reported, two private planes owned by the Saudi government’s sovereign wealth fund were used to transport the kill team that eventually murdered Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

In addition to Malinowski’s bill, the Saudi government is also facing a lawsuit from Khashoggi’s widow and a human rights organization founded by Khashoggi before his death.

“In practice, this will be a way to create real consequences for MbS and other Saudi officials who were involved in the Khashoggi murder beyond what they’ve got so far,” Jeremy Slevin, a spokesperson for Omar’s office, wrote in an email to Responsible Statecraft.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) (Flicker/Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore)
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