The US on Thursday imposed sanctions on 17 individuals of Saudi Arabia for serious human rights abuse resulting from their roles in the “abhorrent” killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The US designated Saud al-Qahtani, his subordinate Maher Mutreb, Saudi Consul General Mohammed Alotaibi, and 14 other members of an operations team for having a role in the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Police columnist.
“This action was taken under the authority of Executive Order 13818, which implements and builds upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.
The Global Magnitsky Act empowers the US to take significant steps to protect and promote human rights and combat corruption around the world.
As a result, all of these individuals’ assets within the US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
“At the time of Khashoggi’s killing, these individuals occupied positions in the Royal Court and several ministries and offices of the Government of Saudi Arabia,” Pompeo said.
The action is an important step in responding to Khashoggi’s killing, he said, adding that the State Department will continue to seek all the relevant facts, consult Congress, and work with other nations to hold accountable those involved in the killing of Khashoggi.
“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi. These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
The government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists, he demanded.
US Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, said the sanctions are an important, but insufficient step towards holding Saudi Arabia accountable for the state-sponsored murder of Virginia resident and journalist Khashoggi.
“I am disturbed that following repeated Saudi lies about what happened to Jamal, the administration appears to be following the Saudi playbook of blaming mid-level officials and exonerating its leadership,” Kaine said.
Senator Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and lead author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, described this as an important step. He had authored the Global Magnitsky Act.
“Given the high-level officials designated by Office of Foreign Assets Control today, paired with indictments in Saudi Arabia, I remain concerned that the administration is enabling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its effort to protect Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from accountability,” he said.
Cardin said that it is difficult for any reasonable person with knowledge of Saudi Arabia’s government to believe such high-level officials would conduct a plot of this significance without the direction of the Crown Prince.
(With inputs from agencies)