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On the 12th anniversary of Bob Levinson’s Disappearance in Iran, Rubio and Colleagues Introduce Bill to Assist Americans Held Hostage or Unlawfully Detained Abroad

Mar 7, 2019 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in leading a bipartisan group of his Senate colleagues in introducing a bill to improve U.S. government efforts to bring back Americans held hostage or unlawfully detained abroad. The Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act cements in place programs to address hostage-taking, and gives the United States government new tools to rescue hostages and punish their captors. The bill is named after Bob Levinson, who was kidnapped on Iran’s Kish Island and taken hostage 12 years ago this weekend—he is the longest-held American citizen in history.
The bill was also cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Chris Coons (D-DE).
“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”, Rubio said. “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.”
“Bob Levinson’s continued detention is shameful and must be addressed,” Menendez said. “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 State Department rightly says that its highest priority is protecting Americans overseas,” Leahy said. “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.”
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.

Timeline of Rubio’s Actions in Support of Bob Levinson:

  • On March 9, 2018, Rubio commented on the 11th anniversary of Bob Levinson’s disappearance.
  • On March 12, 2018, Rubio, Senator Bill Nelson, and U.S. Congressman Deutch call out Iran for denying commitment to assist with Bob Levinson’s case.