US House votes to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi killing

US House votes to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi killing
The legislation would restrict arms sales to Saudi Arabia as long as the violation of dissidents' and detainees' rights continues.
3 min read
22 April, 2021
The US is the world's largest arms exporter [Getty]
US lawmakers approved a bill on Wednesday to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The legislation, titled the "Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act of 2021", was approved 350 to 71 by the House.

It is unclear how the bill, which received bipartisan support in the House, will fare in the Senate.

If the bill is ultimately approved, it would prohibit the Biden administration from approving the sale or transfer of some defense articles to Saudi Arabia.

The prohibition would last an initial period of 120 days subject to automatic renewal unless the president were to prove Riyadh was not violating the rights of dissidents or detainees.

The legislation was introduced by Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly in response to the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, who was a resident of the Virginia district Connolly represents, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

A US intelligence report made public by the Biden administration this year found that the killing could not have taken place without the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Washington imposed sanctions and visa bans on dozens of Saudi nationals after declassifying the intelligence report but stopped short of targeting the crown prince. 

UK campaigners eye block on arms sales

Contentious arms sales to Saudi Arabia also face fresh opposition in the United Kingdom, where the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) was this week granted permission to mount a legal challenge in the High Court against the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in the war in Yemen.

A 2019 court ruling found British arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful as they were made without assessments into alleged breaches of international law in Yemen.

Campaigners are challenging a British government decision last year to renew arms sales to Riyadh despite concerns that Saudi-led bombing had led to the deaths of thousands of civilians and created what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The UK has approved more than $2 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia since resuming sales last year, arguing that any breaches of international law by Saudi-led coalition forces were "isolated incidents".

A legal challenge against the sales by CAAT can be heard by the High Court, a judge ruled this week.

A hearing is likely to take place later this year, CAAT said in a statement.

"Attacks on civilian sites have been widespread and systematic, and have hugely increased the death toll. Despite its complicity in this crisis the UK government has done all it can to keep the arms sales flowing," said campaigner Sarah Waldron.

"The decision to renew arms sales was immoral, and we are confident that the High Court will conclude that it was also illegal."

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