U.S. State Department announces 'Khashoggi ban' for individuals who target dissidents
Announcement follows release of an unclassified report on murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken today announced a new visa restriction policy aimed at those suspected of suppressing, harassing or spying on political dissidents abroad.
The announcement comes the same day the U.S. government released an unclassified report on the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — a report which implicated Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salman.
The policy, which Blinken referred to in his statement as the "Khashoggi ban," would enable the State Department to "impose visa restrictions on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten or harm journalists, activists or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work."
The statement added that the U.S. government has begun already to impose these restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals alleged to have engaged in "counter-dissident" activities, "including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing."
Khashoggi was a permanent resident of the United States and a columnist for the Washington Post at the time of his murder. He was brutally killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, after he entered to get documents for his upcoming marriage.
"We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the report's executive summary reads.
"While the United States remains invested in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, President [Joe] Biden has made clear that partnership must reflect U.S. values," Blinken said in the statement.
"To that end, we have made absolutely clear that extraterritorial threats and assaults by Saudi Arabia against activists, dissidents and journalists must end. They will not be tolerated by the United States."
In an interview with CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton Thursday, Blinken referred to Saudi Arabia as an "important partner" of the United States.
Asked how the Khashoggi report would influence Washington's policy with Riyadh, Blinken said that "Saudi Arabia remains an important partner for the United States on a whole host of issues."
"But we want to make sure that that partnership is clearly advancing our interests and reflects our values."
Blinken said he would "let the report speak for itself."
Broader push for accountability
Saudi Arabia has claimed Khashoggi's death was the result of a "rogue" extradition operation gone awry and has denied the crown prince was involved.
News of the U.S. intelligence report and its findings were reported back in 2018 but the report was not made public.
A leading UN expert says the international community needs to take steps against Saudi Arabia's powerful prince.
Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told CBC Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos that there should be consequences for the crown prince.
WATCH | UN special rapporteur talks about Khashoggi case:
"Targeted sanctions against his assets abroad is an important step towards holding him to account. It should not be just that," she said. "I think that we should take steps as an international community to banish him to the extent possible from international gathering or from some international gathering.
"In my view, that's a first action in the in the direction of accountability."
Late Friday, after meeting with Blinken, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said that Canadian light armoured vehicles will continue to be shipped to Saudi Arabia — but that could change going forward.
"We've been very clear that we've acceded to the arms trade treaty and that the decisions by Canada with respect to trade in arms is very much based on human rights considerations," Garneau said.
"I will not hesitate as minister of foreign affairs to put a stop to any existing arms permits if there is any hint that human rights are being violated. That is Canada's position and we will continue to be very mindful of that in any arms trade exports that are from Canada."
With files from Richard Raycraft, Catharine Tunney and Reuters