The right to assembly “without permission or prior notification” is explicitly granted under Article 44 of Kuwait’s Constitution. However, other laws are used to undermine this right. Security officials including the police harass peaceful demonstrators who also face judicial persecution. Some popular charges used against protestors and organisers include “destabilising the safety and security of the country”, “incitement to protest”, “causing damage to public property”, and “attacking police”. The 1979 Public Gatherings Act has also been controversially used to ban public assemblies of more than 20 persons per gathering. When this has been ignored, the police use excessive forces, tear gas and sound bombs to disperse protestors. On 20th October 2012, the Interior Ministry issued a proclamation to the effect that it would “absolutely not allow any protests rallies, marches, meetings, and sit-ins regardless of the reasons and motives.” The state also abuses the penal code to punish activists, by using the provision which allows the police to detain a suspect without charge or access to legal counsel or family for up to four days. In 2015 police violently dispersed about 800 demonstrators protesting state abuses and detained more than a dozen, threatening them with criminal charges. In 2016, the Bedoun minority rights leader Abdulhakim al-Fadhli was arrested and later expelled from Kuwait on allegations of taking part in an “illegal gathering”.
Civic Space Developments