Human Rights and KSA’s Neom Project
This feature updates readers on the continuing human rights issues around Saudi Arabia’s much-advertised Neom megacity project. The following is an excerpt from the recent communications of UN Human Rights Special Procedures with Public Investment Fund Chairperson and Chairperson of the Neom Company’s Board of Directors Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as the principal duty bearer in this case.
The initial communication came from mandates of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
In their28 April 2023 communication, the Special Procedures expressed their concerns, stating, in part:
“…we would like to bring to your attention, as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Neom Company, information we have received concerning the imminent risk of execution of three persons and long prison convictions of three others, in the context of alleged persecution of members of the Howeitat tribe. Messrs. Shadly Ahmad Mahmoud Abou Taqiqa al-Huwaiti, Ibrahim Salih Ahmad Abou Khalil al-Huwaiti and Atallah Moussa Mohammed al-Huwaiti have been sentenced to death. Messrs. Abdelnasser Ahmad Mahmoud Abou Taqiqa al-Huwaiti, Mahmoud Ahmad Mahmoud Abou Taqiqa al-Huwaiti and Abdullah Dakhilallah al-Huwaiti have been handed severe prison sentences.
All are convicted for terrorist acts, which are allegedly baseless, and they are rather being punished for merely voicing their opposition to the forced evictions of the Howeitat tribe, including on social media.
Some of them have allegedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in custody, including prolonged solitary confinement, for the purpose of extracting confessions.
The six, along with other members of the Howeitat tribe, have been resisting evictions from their homes under the Neom project, part of the Saudi 2030 Vision. NEOM is a project of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which owns 100% of a closed joint stock company named Neom Company. A number of international companies have been allegedly involved in different stages of the development of the Neom Project.
The Neom project is being implemented allegedly without genuine consultation, free prior and informed consent, and access to effective remedies of the Howeitat tribe, whose members have been threatened with evictions from Al Khuraiba, Sharma and Gayal villages.”
The Mission of Saudi Arabia responded on 10 July 2023, disavowing any violations of human rights in this continuing case.
This is not the first time independent UN Special Procedures have intervened in related cases. In February 2021, Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and on on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as well as the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention intervened in the arbitrary arrest, torture and death sentence against Mr. Abdullah al-Huwaiti (SAU 4/2021) to which Saudi Arabia replied, denying all accusations, on 15 April 2021.
The Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and on adequate housing also responded to the arbitrary killing of Mr. Abdul Rahim bin Ahmed Mahmoud Al Huwaiti, on 13 April 2020, within the context of the evictions carried out in Al Khuraiba village, as part of the Neom construction project. The Saudi Mission at Geneva countered in October, denying all allegations of impropriety and questioning the integrity, independence and impartiality required of the Rapporteurs’ status.
Related articles on HIC-MENA News:
Violation Database entry:
Neom Megaproject, 13 April 2020, Saudi Arabia,Neom2.pdf, Forced eviction, Dispossession/confiscation, Privatization of public goods and services
Image: Artist’s conception of the Neom project “The Line.” Source: Hydrogen Insight.