Newcastle's Saudi Arabian ownership 'facilitated and benefited from human rights abuses,' U.S. Senate Committee is told

Yasir Al-Rumayyan 2023Getty

A representative of Human Rights Watch (HRW) testified to a senate committee hearing about the violations that the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is the majority stakeholder in Newcastle, is alleged to have committed.

The country's sovereign wealth fund, which has direct ties to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), has "facilitated and benefited" from abuses, according to HRW's Saudi Arabia researcher Joey Shea.

“The PIF under MBS has facilitated and benefited from human rights abuses directly linked to the Crown Prince," Shea told Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI). "Including the 2017 'anti-corruption' crackdown that involved arbitrary detentions, abusive treatment, and the extortion of property from former and current government officials, prominent businessmen, and rivals within the royal family, as well as the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi."

Article continues below

While Newcastle were not directly named in the testimony, Shea discussed the Middle East country's campaign to clean its international reputation through "sportswashing" as she urged American companies to ensure investments with the Saudis are not "furthering human rights abuses".

"Over the last several years, the Saudi government has embarked on a vast campaign to rehabilitate its image and deflect from global perception of the Saudi state as a severe and persistent human rights violator, particularly under the de facto leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman," she said.

"The PIF has invested significantly in sportswashing, an effort to rebrand the country and distract from serious human rights abuses by hosting or sponsoring events that celebrate human achievement, like major sporting events."

HRW also said it has written to Newcastle chairman and PIF chief Yasir Al-Rumayyan repeatedly about the nation's record of abuses but received no answer.

PIF completed their takeover of Newcastle in October 2021 and the owners have faced criticism from many fans, pundits and human rights organisations on several occasions since.