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Saudi Arabia is planning to execute three local tribe members who opposed its futuristic NEOM megacity project, UN experts warn

May 4, 2023, 21:01 IST
Business Insider
Neom in Saudi Arabia, on January 12, 2021.Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images
  • Three men protesting the NEOM project have been sentenced to death, UN human rights experts said.
  • The UN group said they were convicted under "overly vague" terror laws for their objections.

Three members of a Saudi Arabian tribe who oppose the futuristic "smart city" project NEOM have been sentenced to death, UN human rights specialists warned on Wednesday.

The men are from the Howeitat tribe, which traditionally lives on lands earmarked for the hyper-futuristic megacity planned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, according to UN Special Rapporteurs — experts who advise its human rights council.

"Despite being charged with terrorism, they were reportedly arrested for resisting forced evictions in the name of the NEOM project and the construction of a 170km linear city called The Line," the experts said.

The Line is a mirrored, futuristic development being built as part of NEOM.

The experts group said the men had been convicted under an "overly vague" terror law which appears not to meet international law.


They also asked the Saudi justice ministry to investigate allegations of torture in the process of interrogating the men.

This image shows the planned design of 'The Line,' a 'vertical skyscraper' which forms part of the futuristic Saudi Arabian city of NEOM.NEOM

According to reports, the three men, Shadly Ahmad Mahmoud Abou Taqiqa al-Huwaiti, Ibrahim Salih Ahmad Abou Khalil al-Huwaiti and Atallah Moussa Mohammed al-Huwaiti, were sentenced to death under Saudi's terror laws last August, and had their sentences upheld in January.

Three further tribe members were given prison sentences of up to 50 years, the experts group said.

There has long been an international buzz around the futuristic, tech-driven and environmentally advanced developments.

But critics have also raised questions around its surveillance objectives, as Insider's Tom Porter reported.


And locals have reportedly been forced off their land to make way for the project. Since January 2020, residents of the three villages of Al Khuraiba, Sharma and Gayal have been evicted without fair compensation, despite promises from the state, the experts group said.

"Under international law, states that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the 'most serious crimes', involving intentional killing," the experts said. "We do not believe the actions in question meet this threshold."

The expert group is a body of voluntary independent experts serving the UN human rights system and, per The Guardian, do not speak on behalf of the bloc.

Neither NEOM nor the Saudi Ministry of Justice immediately responded to Insider's request for comment.

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