Human rights defenders arrested in Kuwait
On 14th June, Bedoon human rights defender Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli was reportedly beaten and injured by police while being transferred from court to prison. Al-Fadhli, who is involved in monitoring human rights violations in Kuwait, had been arrested on 18th April at a solidarity gathering at the home of imprisoned pro-democracy activist Mussallam Al-Barak. He has previously been targeted by the Kuwaiti authorities for his peaceful activities in defence of human rights and for exercising his right to peaceful assembly. On 16th April, Kuwaiti authorities arrested human rights defender Rana Al-Sadoun, co-founder of the National Committee to Monitor Human Rights Violations, on her arrival from Beirut at Kuwait International Airport. She was released on bail of 500 KD ($1,600) on 17th April. On 21st June, the Criminal Court in Kuwait sentenced Al-Sadoun in absentia to three years in prison with hard labour. The court convicted her of repeating a speech which was delivered in 2002 by former MP Musallam Al-Barrak in which he criticised the electoral law. The Criminal Court has subsequently ruled that because Al-Sadoun was sentenced in absentia, the case must now be re-tried. A recent UN Human Rights Committee report expressed concerns about “restrictions on the establishment and operation of civil society organisations and the arbitrary application of the law to limit dissent.”
Kuwaiti authorities continue to restrict the right to freedom of expression. In June, Kuwait’s national assembly amended the electoral law to prohibit those convicted by court of insulting God, the Prophets or the Emir, from contesting general elections. In practice, this amendment will prevent members of the opposition from running in the National Assembly elections, due to take place next year. Concerns about restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in Kuwait were also highlighted by the UN Human Rights Committee in its recent report. Particular concerns were expressed about “reports of arbitrary arrest, detention, trial, withdrawal of citizenship and deportation of persons who exercise their freedom of opinion and expression and the use of legislation to restrict the right of freedom of expression”.
The same Human Rights Committee report expressed its continuing concerns about restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly including the prohibition on non-Kuwaitis from participating in gatherings and the excessive and disproportionate use of force against protestors.