Senators Side with Biden on Granting Lawsuit Immunity to Saudi Prince

Photo credit: The Atlantic

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner both defended on Sunday the Biden administration’s decision to grant sovereign immunity to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from lawsuits stemming from the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, pointing out that the administration was adhering to legal custom.

Arkansas Sen. Cotton told host Shannon Bream on “Fox News Sunday” that not granting sovereign immunity to Mohammed bin Salman would’ve been a break of customs of lawsuits involving foreign heads of state.

Per the State Department announcement on Thursday, the administration’s decision that Bin Salman had sovereign immunity from US courts in Khashoggi’s killing was not making a judgment on the merits of any lawsuit filed against Saudi Arabia but is purely a legal determination with long-standing legal precedent.

Washington Post’s publisher and CEO Fred Ryan accused the Biden administration on Friday of granting a license to kill to one of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers. Khashoggi, who was killed in Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Istanbul in October 2018, wrote for the Washington Post.

Even President Biden has in the past called journalist Khashoggi’s death a flat-out murder ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince.

After Bream reiterated those accusations, stressing that Khashoggi can’t just be forgotten, Cotton argued that when making such a decision, the major consideration is whether a country’s leaders supported the United States and assisted it internationally and not whether that country violated human rights.

And the simple fact is, as Cotton pointed out, that Saudi Arabia has been an American partner for more than eight decades.

Though condemning Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, Sen. Warner largely agreed with Cotton on both points later on the same show, noting that the reason behind granting sovereign immunity even to leaders Americans don’t like is mainly to protect US leaders and diplomats when they are posted from being subject to Saudi Arabian law or Russian law, etc.

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