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Biden Administration Recognizes MBS’s Immunity in Khashoggi Case

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On Nov. 17, the Biden administration filed a suggestion of immunity on behalf of Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in a suit filed by the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated in 2018. Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, brought CENGIZ et al v. BIN SALMAN et al in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2020, seeking relief under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 and Alien Tort Statute in connection with Khashoggi’s killing. 

Richard C. Visek, Acting Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State, wrote in the Nov. 17 filing that the State Department recognizes and allows Mohammed bin Salman’s sovereign immunity as a sitting head of government, making him immune from any remedies the court may order while he remains in office—but that it does not take a view on the merits of the case and “reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

In July, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates had invited the U.S. government to file a statement of interest outlining its view on whether head-of-state immunity applies in this case, how the act-of-state doctrine interacts with causes of action brought by Cengiz, and how the sovereign interests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that might be impaired by the case.

You can read the suggestion of immunity here or below:

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