Saudi Arabia: ALQST documents worsening judicial harassment against Al-Howaitat members protesting NEOM megaproject; incl. co. responses
In February 2023, NGO ALQST released a report into land rights violations against the Al-Howaitat tribe in Saudi Arabia, in the course of the USD500bn NEOM megaproject development. The report documents a series of detentions, court rulings, travel bans and jail sentences for tribe members resisting eviction to make way for NEOM. A key finding is a correlation between lengthening jail sentences since 2022 as the reputation of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salma improves around the world.
NEOM offers lucrative opportunities to multinational companies who have accepted contracts to construction, design, engineer, fit out and consult on the project. In 2020 the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited three management consultancies and NEOM Co. to respond to concerns around attacks on human rights defenders. The outreach is covered here.
In February 2023, the Resource Centre invited the companies named in the report to respond to the recommendations ALQST makes in the report and to set out what human rights due diligence they undertook prior to accepting work on the project. Only three companies responded: McKinsey, Air Products and Keller.
The few that have responded have provided no more than generic assurances, with no engagement with the issues at hand, specifically the devastating abuses against former residents of the land.James Lynch, director of UK-based rights group FairSquare
Given the extent of the rights violations that ALQST has been documenting in the context of Neom, generic replies or total silence from the companies involved display an alarming indifference to the human costs of this and similar projects in Saudi Arabia. We urge more companies to engage with these issues, as some are already beginning to do, and to take their corporate responsibilities seriously.Julia Legner, ALQST Executive Director