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Saudi Arabia continues to forcibly evict citizens in Awamiyah through use of excessive force in violation of international law

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Saudi Arabia must immediately end its forced eviction of residents of Awamiyah through arbitrary practices and use of excessive force, and in violation of international law, said the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR).

On 15 May 2017, the Saudi authorities cut off the power of neighborhoods in Awamiyah at a time of the year when temperatures and demand for electricity soar. This was the latest of its arbitrary practices that have led since January 2017 to the forced eviction of local residents who consider these arbitrary actions to be targeting their removal from the area.

On 10 May 2017, the Saudi authorities had launched a military operation that it claimed to be targeting wanted suspects who had blocked its attempts to carry out development projects in the area. In the early hours of 10 May, the authorities began demolishing houses in the Mosawara neighborhood of Awamiyah and used armored vehicles to fire indiscriminately in the area. This led to the killing of at least 5 people and wounding many others.

Local sources told ESOHR that this military operation caused significant physical damage to houses and neighborhoods, to the destruction and burning of personal property and cars, and to the forced eviction of at least 5,000 residents and emptying of whole neighborhoods.

The excessive force use by the Saudi authorities has led to clashes with armed persons in the Mosawara neighborhood.

Earlier on 25 January 2017, the Saudi authorities had cut off power of the historical Mosawara and other neighborhoods to force residents to leave their homes. This followed a process of unfair pricing of houses in the Mosawara neighborhood by the authorities in a bid to evict residents to carry out redevelopment in the area.

Before the residents were compensated and provided with alternative homes, the Saudi authorities forcibly evicted them in clear violation of the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development Based Evictions and Displacement, paragraph 16 of which states that “All persons, groups and communities have  the right to resettlement, which includes the right to alternative land of better or equal quality and housing that must satisfy the following criteria for adequacy:  accessibility, affordability, habitability, security of tenure, cultural adequacy, suitability of location, and access to essential services such as health and education.”

On 5 April 2017, United Nations experts on cultural rights, housing and extreme poverty called on Saudi Arabia “to immediately halt the planned demolition of a 400-year-old walled neighborhood in the village of Awamia.” They added that the “plan for the Al-Masora quarter threatens the historical and cultural heritage of the town with irreparable harm, and may result in the forced eviction of numerous people from their businesses and residences.” The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, further added “Residents have been pressured in many ways, including through power cuts, to vacate their homes and businesses without adequate alternative resettlement options, leaving them at best with insufficient compensation and at worst, with nowhere to go.”

The Saudi authorities have ignored the calls of the UN experts and continue to forcibly evict residents in the Mosawra and other areas of Awamiyah by using excessive force. This continuous and serious violation of human rights in Awamiyah demonstrates the Saudi authorities’ complete disregard of international law and of its obligations under it.

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