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Kaine Statement on U.S. Department of State Supporting Immunity for Saudi Crown Prince from Lawsuit Filed by Friends and Family of Jamal Khashoggi

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine—a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and chair of the SFRC subcommittee that oversees human rights—released the following statement regarding the State Department’s support for immunity for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in a lawsuit brought by friends and family of Virginia resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, following MBS’ role in Khashoggi’s brutal murder:

“I am deeply disappointed in the State Department’s decision to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by the friends and family of Virginia resident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi against Saudi defendants responsible for his gruesome execution.

“President Biden has been very clear about this horrific crime. He declared in 2019: ‘It was flat out murder … We should treat it that way and there should be consequences.’

“Despite the U.S. intelligence community concluding that MBS approved the execution of Khashoggi, the Biden Administration has imposed no direct consequences on the Crown Prince.

“As disappointing as it is that the U.S. has been unwilling to hold MBS to account for the assassination of a U.S.-resident journalist, last night’s announcement by the State Department is even more egregious. The case is a civil suit filed by the friends and family of Khashoggi in the hopes of acquiring even a modicum of justice from the Saudi defendants. The U.S. is not a party to the case. The Saudi defendants have full opportunity to defend their own actions in the federal proceedings.

“The court offered the Administration the option to express an opinion on the question of whether sovereign immunity doctrines protect MBS from the suit. The Administration had no duty to take a proactive position and could have simply refrained from doing so. Instead, it has chosen to take the side of the party that our own intelligence agencies have concluded is responsible for the murder, and is standing against family members seeking recompense for this gross injustice.

“Why has the Administration changed its view from the strong moral stance taken by the President in 2019? Is the Administration casting aside its confidence in its own intelligence community’s judgment? If the friends and family of Khashoggi are denied a path to accountability in the American court system, where in the world can they go? How can the U.S. look at any dictator in the world who is oppressing journalists and urge good behavior when we refuse to impose accountability for a shocking murder of an American-based journalist and even take affirmative steps to block efforts by the victim’s friends and families to seek justice?”

Kaine has been repeatedly outspoken against the Saudi-sponsored murder of Khashoggi and has demanded accountability since 2018. Following a recommendation made by the United Nations, Kaine called on the FBI to open an investigation into the murder of Khashoggi in July 2019 after months of continued inaction by the Trump Administration.