On the 12th Anniversary of Bob Levinson’s Captivity, Menendez, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Assist Americans Held Hostage or Unlawfully Detained Abroad

Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lead a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues in introducing a bill today to improve the U.S. government’s efforts to bring back Americans held hostage or unlawfully detained abroad. The Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act bolsters programs to address hostage-taking, and gives the United States government new tools to rescue hostages and punish their captors.

The legislation, which was simultaneously introduced in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan group led by Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), is named in honor of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, whose unlawful detention enters its twelfth year today – the longest in American history.

“Bob Levinson’s continued detention is shameful and must be addressed,” said Senator Menendez. “This legislation will enhance existing tools and give the United States government vital news tools to help bring hostages home, provide better information and support to the families of hostages, and confront captors with meaningful sanctions.”

“The United States must do all that we can to ensure that our citizens taken hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, such as my constituent Bob Levinson who went missing in Iran 12 years ago, are brought home and reunited with their loved ones,” said Sen. Rubio. “This bipartisan legislation will strengthen coordination within the Executive Branch to facilitate the return of American hostages and to hold foreign government officials accountable for their role in taking American citizens hostages.  I join my colleagues in reaffirming our commitment to bringing back home Bob Levinson and the countless other American prisoners around the world.”

“The State Department rightly says that its highest priority is protecting Americans overseas,” said Senator Leahy. “It is not too much to ask that when American citizens and nationals are arrested and imprisoned, our Embassies determine if there is credible information that they are being held as hostages or otherwise wrongly detained.  This bill provides specific criteria for making such determinations and would ensure that those Americans receive every available diplomatic or other assistance to protect their rights and obtain their release.”

Senator Menendez has been a leading advocate in Congress for the safe return of Bob Levinson, urging the Trump Administration to continue previous efforts to locate Mr. Levinson, asking the President to meet with the Levinson family and designate a senior White House official to provide them regular updates on the administration’s efforts.

Key Provisions of the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act include:

  • Authorization to impose sanctions on persons responsible for hostage-taking or unlawful detention abroad.
  • Requires creation of a Senate-confirmed Special Envoy for Hostages with the rank of ambassador.
  • Requires that the State Department review all cases of US nationals detained abroad to determine and report to Congress on cases in which detention is unlawful
  • Mandates that the Secretary of State refer all cases of U.S. nationals being unlawfully detained abroad to the Special Envoy for Hostages
  • Codifies an existing Executive Order on hostage recovery to ensure a continuous and robust U.S. government response to hostage-taking that will apply to the Trump administration and future ones. 

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