Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in releasing the following statements after the Senate unanimously approved the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act (S.712).
Named in honor of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, whose unlawful detention by the Iranian regime is recognized as the longest-held hostage in American history, the bipartisan legislation bolsters U.S. government resources to bring back Americans held hostage or unlawfully detained abroad. Levinson is presumed to have died in Iranian custody earlier this year.
“Earlier this year we received the tragic news about Bob Levinson, the longest held American hostage. It is our hope that no American family will ever have to endure what the Levinson family went through. This important bipartisan bill will help ensure that American hostages are brought back home safely and able to reunite with their families,” Rubio said. “I urge my colleagues in the House to take swift action and pass this important bill and send it to the president for signing.”
“I was honored to lead this fight in the Senate, but this important day belongs to the family and friends of Bob Levinson,” Menendez said. “Year after year, they fought valiantly and with great tenacity and devotion, to gather information about Bob’s whereabouts and to bring him home. It is their determination and sacrifice that served as the foundation for this legislation, which will address both the wrongful imprisonment of Americans like Bob Levinson, and the hostage-taking of Americans like James Foley.”
"This is an important step in our efforts to prevent the unlawful detention and hostage-taking of American citizens abroad,” Coons said. “This bipartisan bill honors Bob Levinson, who was held hostage in Iran for over a decade, by strengthening our ability to bring Americans like Bob home and hold their captors accountable."
“Any time an American citizen is held unjustly, it demands the attention and full weight of the United States government to secure their freedom,” Shaheen said. “This legislation reaffirms our country's commitment to bring Americans home safely and bolsters diplomatic powers for the President and administration to use to compel their release. I'm pleased we were able to pass this bill in the Senate on a bipartisan basis and hope it will soon be considered in the House and sent to the President’s desk."
The Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act sets out criteria for the Secretary of State to determine whether U.S. nationals are being detained unlawfully or wrongfully, and places responsibility for resolving such cases of unlawful or wrongful detention with the State Department’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs. In addition, it establishes into law the highly effective Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, and Hostage Response Group created by Presidential Executive Order, and authorizes the President to impose sanctions on any person the President determines is responsible for or complicit in hostage-taking or unlawful detention.
The full text of the resolution is here.
Timeline of Rubio’s Actions in Support of Bob Levinson:
- January 22, 2020: Rubio leads Call for More action on American hostages in Iran
- March 12, 2019: Rubio introduces resolution marking the 12th anniversary of Bob Levinson's disappearance.
- March 7, 2019: 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.
- November 18, 2019: Rubio renews call for Bob Levinson's immediate release
- March 9, 2018: Rubio commented on the 11th anniversary of Bob Levinson’s disappearance.
- 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.