Senators back Biden administration on Saudi immunity from prosecution

Cotton argued that the main consideration was not whether a country was violating human rights, but whether a country’s leaders supported the United States and helped the United States internationally.

“The way I see it,” he said, “is what matters most to governments around the world is less whether they are democratic or undemocratic and more that they be pro-American or anti-American, and the simple fact is that Saudi Arabia has been an American partner for 80 years.

“That doesn’t mean we overlook or condone countries that are pro-American, and we can even help midwives or feed them in democratic countries, like [former President] Ronald Reagan managed to do this in South Korea and the Philippines.

Later on the same show, Warner (D-Va.) largely agreed with Cotton on both counts.

“The reason there has been sovereign immunity, even to leaders we don’t like, is as much to protect American leaders and American diplomats when in office from being subject to Saudi law or to Russian law or South African law,” he said.

Warner condemned Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, but said: “We have to be realistic enough to realize that Saudi Arabia has been a bulwark against Iran.”

President Joe Biden has in the past called Khashoggi’s death “outright murder.” The State Department said Thursday it was not issuing a judgment on the merits of any lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, saying instead that its statement on immunity was “purely a legal ruling.”

Khashoggi had written for the Washington Post. Fred Ryan, the publication’s publisher and CEO, said Friday that the Biden administration was “giving license to kill to one of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers.”


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