The revelation that the Biden administration is calling for immunity for Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman in a lawsuit brought over the killing of U.S.-resident and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the latest example of the administration’s unwillingness to hold the Saudi leader accountable, despite his complicity in Khashoggi’s murder and his role in directing his regime’s brutal war in Yemen.
The lawsuit, brought in 2020 by Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, and the Washington-based organization Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN) alleges that a team of assassins approved by Bin Salman “kidnapped, bound, drugged, tortured, and assassinated” Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and then dismembered his body.
The Biden Justice Department has intervened on Bin Salman’s behalf by claiming that heads of state have immunity from prosecution under customary international law. But how many heads of state have overseen the murder of a dissident journalist outside their own territory, or presided over a war that has resulted in the deaths of nearly 400,000 people, as has happened in the Saudi-led war in Yemen? If the administration truly believes that immunity applies in this instance, it should be pressing for other avenues of accountability.
President Biden has come a long way from declaring the Saudi regime a “pariah” on the campaign trail to his return to what is essentially a business-as-usual approach to relations with Riyadh. In his first foreign policy speech in February 2021, he pledged an end to U.S. support for “offensive operations” in Yemen, along with “relevant arms sales.”
Read the full piece in The Hill.