ALQST for Human Rights called on the international companies investing in the NEOM city project to immediately withdraw from their responsibilities towards human rights violations within the framework of the project.
“The serious human rights violations committed in the context of the NEOM project, including illegal land confiscations and forced displacements, arbitrary arrests, unfair prison sentences and even death sentences, clearly contradict the Saudi authorities’ rhetoric of liberal reform,” said Julia Legner, Executive Director of ALQST.
Wegner added, “NEOM is only one of several projects in Vision 2030 that the Crown Prince is leading, and thus these violations will continue to be practised elsewhere in the country.”
“It is time for companies and investors, who are involved in these projects, many of them based in the United Kingdom and the United States, to reassess their responsibilities in the field of human rights,” she stressed.
According to the human rights organization, the Saudi authorities are still waging a fierce campaign of judicial prosecutions against the members of the Al-Huwaitat tribe, who opposed the forced eviction in 2020 to build the giant future city of Neom.
ALQST documented the extent of these ongoing violations in its latest investigation, entitled The Dark Side of the NEOM Project: Confiscation of the Lands of the Area Residents, Their Displacement, and Judicial Follow-up.
The organization called on investors, consultants and companies involved in the NEOM project and other Saudi projects not to be complicit in gross human rights violations.
ALQST’s report, which includes much previously unpublished information, was based on direct testimonies from victims and witnesses and open-source data.
It paints a disturbing picture of the grave human rights violations being committed in the context of the giant city of NEOM, which is being built on the Red Sea coast in Saudi Arabia at the cost of $500 billion.
The NEOM project is the focus of Vision 2030, which is led by Mohammed bin Salman, as part of an economical program.
Before the start of construction, the property of the residents of the area – most of whom are members of the Al-Huwaitat tribe, who number 20,000 people – were confiscated and forcibly displaced from their homes illegally, often without compensation.
During that operation, the security forces shot and killed Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti. In addition, scores of al-Huwaitat residents have been arbitrarily arrested for peacefully resisting the forced displacement of their tribe and for expressing their rejection of the injustice inflicted on them.
And in 2022, exceptionally harsh prison sentences were imposed on many of them under the anti-terrorism regime for periods ranging from 15 to 50 years, and even death sentences for at least five people. This came at a time when Saudi courts began issuing unprecedentedly harsh penalties against other peaceful activists.
The violations committed against the Huwaitat tribe are not isolated incidents. Large-scale demolitions and evictions of nearly half a million people took place in the context of the $20 billion downtown Jeddah development project.
The Saudi authorities’ total disregard for human rights in these contexts has profound implications for companies, partners, and investors participating or considering participating in NEOM and other projects in Saudi Arabia.
Therefore, ALQST’s report urges everyone interested to look closely at their institutional responsibilities and take steps not to become complicit in the human rights violations committed by the Saudi authorities.