• Sheet of paper Report

Annual Report: Kuwait 2011

July 13, 2011

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.


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.

  • In April, a court banned women from being hired as prosecutors, rejecting a petition by Shurouk Al-Failakawi, a law graduate, against the head of the Supreme Judicial Council, in which she sought appointment as a prosecutor. The case was referred for appeal.

Discrimination – the Bidun

In November, the government announced what it called a comprehensive plan to resolve the problems facing the Bidun community, indicating that many would be accorded Kuwaiti nationality although more than half would not and so would remain stateless. Thousands of Bidun long resident in Kuwait have continued to be denied Kuwaiti nationality and are currently stateless. As such, they are denied access to health, education, employment and social services on an equitable basis with Kuwaiti citizens.

Migrants’ rights

Foreign migrant workers were inadequately protected by law and in practice, so continued to be exploited and abused by employers. Suicide rates among such workers were reported to be high.

New labour legislation relating largely to the private sector came into force on 20 February. It prohibits the employment of minors aged under 15 and requires that a public authority be established to oversee the recruitment and employment of foreign migrant workers.

Death penalty

At least two men and one woman were sentenced to death for murder. One death sentence was reported to have been commuted on appeal. No executions were reported.

  • In January, the death sentence against a Filipina domestic worker, Jakatia Pawa, was upheld by the Court of Cassation. She was sentenced to death in 2008 for the murder of her employer’s 22-year-old daughter.

In December, Kuwait was one of the minority of states that voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.