Senators Shaheen, Menendez, Rubio, Leahy, Coons Celebrate Expected Passage of Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act

December 21, 2020

(WASHINGTON, DC) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), SFRC Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chris Coons (D-DE) issued the following statements on securing passage of the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act (S.712) as part of the end-of-year funding legislation approved by the Senate today: 

“Any time an American citizen is unjustly held against their will, the U.S. government must do everything in its power to bring them home. Too many lives have been taken and too many Americans remain unjustly imprisoned around the globe today, which is why our legislation is so urgently needed,” said Senator Shaheen. “Our bipartisan effort reaffirms U.S. commitment to secure the freedom of Americans detained abroad and enhances diplomatic authority for the President and administration to force their release. I’m glad Congress is clearing this legislation and delivering it to the President’s desk to be signed into law. This bill is a fitting tribute to Robert Levinson, an FBI agent who was detained by the Iranian regime and died in their custody. He will not be forgotten and through this legislation, we will help ensure Americans who are still unjustly held are not forgotten either. Every tool must be at our disposal to bring Americans home.”

“Earlier this year, we learned that Bob Levinson, the longest-held hostage in American history, died while in Iranian custody, far from his loving family, friends and colleagues. In March 2007, after decades of service to the United States, Bob Levinson was cruelly and mysteriously taken from his family, who have spent the past 13 years tirelessly fighting for his safe return home. Their indefatigable dedication to Bob has inspired me and my colleagues over the years to pursue various legislative efforts, leading to the passage of this bill to ensure that the United States has the resources to safeguard American lives abroad and reunite hostages with their loved ones,” said Senator Menendez. “I commend my colleagues for helping enact this bill, and I continue to stand with the Levinson family in the long march towards achieving justice for Bob.”  

“This bipartisan bill, named in honor of Floridian Bob Levinson, the longest held American hostage who is believed to have died while detained by the brutal regime in Tehran, strengthens our nation’s resources to bring back American hostages,” said Senator Rubio. “We must ensure that no American family will ever endure what the Levinson family went through. I am proud to have co-led this legislation and I look forward to it becoming law.”

“This bill is a fitting tribute to Bob Livingston, who gave his life for this country, and to his family who did everything humanly possible to try to save his life. Americans wrongfully imprisoned overseas deserve whatever support and assistance our government can give them. This bill, which I am very proud to have taken part in drafting, will help ensure that future victims and their families receive that help,” said Senator Leahy.

“The passage of this bipartisan bill is an important step in seeking justice for the unlawful detention and death of Bob Levinson, an American who was taken hostage by Iran over a decade ago and died in Iranian custody,” said Senator Coons. “The Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act honors Bob by strengthening our ability to bring Americans detained abroad home safely and hold their captors accountable.”

The Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act is a bipartisan bill to bolster U.S. government resources to bring back Americans held hostage or unlawfully detained abroad. The legislation fortifies existing programs to address hostage-taking and equips the U.S. government with new tools to perform rescues, punish captors, and provide critical information and support to hostages and their families.

The bill is named in honor of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who is presumed to have died in Iranian custody this year. Lasting more than twelve years, Levinson’s unlawful detention by the Iranian regime is recognized as the longest-held hostage in American history.

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.