On February the 13th, Gulf Center for Human Rights issued a statement including confirmed information on Bedoon detainees and activists in Kuwait. The center, represented by its head Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, has called on Kuwaiti authorities to release activists and respect their human rights:

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) has received confirmed information regarding the arrest and detention of human rights defenders who are members of two Bedoun non-governmental organizations, namely the Kuwaiti Bedoun Gathering and the Kuwaiti Bedoun Committee. Both organizations work on behalf of the Bedoun in Kuwait and are demanding their rights and in particular, the naturalization. The population of Bedoun seeking naturalization in Kuwait, is now estimated to have reached 120,000.

On 29 January 2012, Ahmed Habib Al-Tamimi, head of the Kuwaiti Bedoun Committee, Lavi Al-Qahtani, Vice Chairman of the Kuwaiti Bedoun Committee, Nawaf Fahad Saleh Al-Bader, Secretary of the Kuwaiti Bedoun Committee, Firas Mosaed Saleh Nasser, member of the Kuwaiti Bedoun Committee, Ali Gathban Al-Anzi, member of the Kuwaiti Bedoun Committee Mosaed Nazal Radam Al-Shemary, Secretary of Kuwaiti Bedoun Gathering, Khalifa Attia Khazaal, member of Kuwaiti Bedoun Gathering, as well as independent human rights defenders, Bandar Badi Al-Fadly, EId Aouda Eajayel Khalaf, Abdulkarim Erayed Al-Shammari, Abdullah Ghanem Salman, Abdulhadi Abdulrazak Shabt and Abdulhakim Abdulrazak Shabt were called by way of summons to the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of the Interior in Al-Salmiya.

The human rights defenders presented themselves to the Criminal Investigations Department, that evening where they were detained. According to information received, six charges have been brought against the activists including incitement to protest, incitement to destabilize security, causing damage to public property, non co-operation with security men, attacking security men, forming a secret organization, and communicating with the enemy.

The activists were kept in detention in the Criminal Investigations Department in Al-Salmiya for four days before they were brought before the Public Prosecution at the Palace of Justice for interrogation where an order was made to remand them in custody for 21 days. They were then transferred to the Central Prison in Al-Slabeya. During the journey between the Criminal Investigations Department in Al-Salmiya and Public Prosecution at the Palace of Justice, they were reportedly forced  into a van which was divided into cells that were so small that the activists could not sit and were remain standing all the time. They have been allowed contact with their lawyers and met each other during prayers on Friday 3 February 2012.

The detention of these activists comes in the context of increasing repression of Bedoun in Kuwait, following escalations in demonstrations calling for their naturalization in recent months despite a ban on protesting en masse. On 13 and 14 January 2012, violence broke out at demonstrations held near Kuwait City and several demonstrators were arrested and riot police used tear gas to disperse the protestors. These demonstrations have now been placed on hold indefinitely.

Over the past number of years, the government has taken different approaches to the way it interacts with both the Kuwaiti Bedoun Gathering and the Kuwaiti Bedoun Committee. At times it has accepted and tolerated the activities of both organizations whereas on other occasions the government has excluded and rejected their work. In the period from 2006 to mid 2009 the government allowed the organizations to operate relatively freely. However, from 2009 onwards as part of a crackdown against them, the government threatened and detained members of both organizations on numerous occasions and restricted the interaction of the organizations with public services. The interference by the government with the activities of the organizations increased in December 2009 following a protest which they organized. However, following an appearance by Nawaf Al-Bader the secretary of the Kuwaiti Bedoun Committee on Kuwait TV in March 2010, the activists continued their work with little interference from authorities.

Mr. Nabeel Rajab, director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights said “these arrests are a continuation of the trend of targeting Bedoun community by the government of Kuwait.” He added “the Kuwait government should comply with the human rights treaties and stop its repressive procedures against the Bedoun community and all activists immediately.”

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) urges the authorities in Kuwait to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release the Bedoun human rights defenders as GCHR believes that they have been detained solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work on behalf of the Bedoun in Kuwait;

2. Drop all charges against the aforementioned activists as GCHR believes that they have been brought them solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work;

3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of the aforementioned activist while they remain in detention;

4 . Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kuwait are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities

The GCHR respectfully reminds the authorities in Kuwait that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5(b) “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels:(b)To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups;” and to article 6(c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others(…): (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters.”