Annual Report: Kuwait 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Kuwait 2011

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Head of state: al-Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah
Head of government: al-Shaikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 3.1 million
Life expectancy: 77.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 11/9 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 94.5 per cent

Critics of the Prime Minister were harassed and prosecuted. Foreign migrant workers were exploited and abused by employers. Thousands of Bidun resident in Kuwait remained stateless, impeding their access to health, education and other rights. At least three people were sentenced to death; no executions were reported.

Background

Kuwait's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in May. In September, the government accepted 114 recommendations, including to improve conditions for foreign migrant workers, and rejected 25 recommendations, including to establish a moratorium on executions.

Freedom of expression and association

Two critics of the Prime Minister continued to face harassment and prosecution.

  • Muhammad 'Abd al-Qader al-Jasem, a journalist and critic of the Prime Minister, was arrested on 11 May and charged with undermining the status of the Amir of Kuwait by writing articles in his blog. He was released on bail on 28 June. On 22 November, he was sentenced by the Criminal Court to a one-year prison term and immediately detained to start serving the sentence. He lodged an appeal. He faced several other lawsuits filed against him by the Prime Minister.
  • Khaled al-Fadala, Secretary General of the National Democratic Alliance, a grouping of liberal political organizations, was sentenced to three months' imprisonment and a fine on 30 June after he was convicted of insulting the Prime Minister in a speech criticizing corruption in Kuwait. He began serving his sentence on 2 July but was released 10 days later. The Court of Cassation found that there had been procedural irregularities and ordered his retrial.
  • Thirty-three Egyptian nationals who met at a restaurant in Kuwait to express support for a potential candidate in Egypt's 2011 presidential election were arrested on 9 April; 25 of them were then summarily deported and the other eight are believed to have been released.
  • On 8 December, the police forcibly dispersed a public gathering at the house of Jama'an al-Harbash, a member of parliament (MP), and reportedly assaulted several MPs and others who then required hospital treatment. One of them, human rights defender Dr 'Obaid al-Wasmi, filed a formal complaint the next day against the Interior Ministry and the police officers he alleged had assaulted him; two days later, he was arrested. On 20 December, he appeared before the Criminal Court to face six charges, including spreading false information abroad, taking part in a public gathering with criminal intent, and insulting the Amir.

Counter-terror and security

Two Kuwaiti nationals, Fawzi al-Odah and Faiz al-Kandari, continued to be detained by the US authorities at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In September, a US judge denied a habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of Faiz al-Kandari, effectively consigning him to indefinite detention.

In April, the government refused appeals by the US authorities to confiscate the passports and impose other restrictions on two former Guantánamo detainees, Khaled al-Mutairi and Fouad al-Rabia.

In May, eight men accused of belonging to al-Qa'ida and planning to attack a US base in Kuwait were acquitted by a criminal court; the acquittals were confirmed by the Court of Appeal on 28 October. In December 2009, a court had accepted that the accused were ill-treated in pre-trial detention; no action was known to have been taken against those allegedly responsible for their ill-treatment.

Women's rights

Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. However, the government enacted new legislation to make Kuwaiti women eligible to receive the state social allowance if their husbands do not receive it and to provide for paid maternity leave for women employed by the state.