Beirut, 08 July 2012 – On 6 July 2012, a peaceful protest was held in Taimaa square near Kuwait City by the Bedoon community and their supporters following afternoon prayers. Police used excessive force to disperse the protest and detained twelve human rights defenders who were participating in the demonstration. There are approximately 180,000 people in the Bedoon Community in Kuwait who are denied citizenship under strict nationality laws in Kuwait.
Those currently detained by the police include Saad Khuwaitir, journalist Abdullah Mayah Al-Otaibi, Nawaf Al-Khaldi,Jafar Abdullah, Ahmad Abdullah Al-Enizi, Faisal Qased Al-Fadhli, Asaad Hammad Al-Shammari, Nasser Hussain Obaid,Ahmad Hlail Saad, Ali Marzooq Shamran, Ghazi Qased Al-Fadhli, and Mohammed Jaser Mnady. The identities of the others in detention have not yet been established. It is reported that no charges have yet been brought against the human rights defenders. All are members of the Bedoon community and have been transferred to the criminal investigations jail. Kuwaiti Lawyer Mohammed Al-Fadhli was also reportedly arrested at the protest but was released a short time later.
Members of a human rights group “The Human Line” monitored the protests and in their observations they reported how riot police chased protestors, arrested protestors and used sound bombs. One of the protestors Dr. Fatima Al-Mattarwas beaten by a member of the riot police during the protest as she attempted to stop the official from beating a young Bedoon protestor. Dr. Fatima Al-Mattar has attended such rallies in the past and lectures on Bedoon rights and the on-going struggle of the community in Kuwait. Following the incident she went to the police station in order to file a complaint however, she was denied access to any information concerning the officer involved and was told that she could not file a complaint with the police but that she should go to the Interior Ministry.
Prior to the protest, supporter of the Bedoon protestors and leader of the Eniza tribe, Jidaan Al-Hathal was detained by authorities in the airport in for over twenty-four hours on his arrival in Kuwait City. During this time he was reportedly interrogated about his support of the Bedoon community many of whom belong to the Eniza tribe. Hundreds of people gathered together in solidarity outside the State security headquarters calling for his release. According to information received Jidaan Al-Hathal did not attend the protest due to phone calls received from high-ranking officials asking him not to attend.
The excessive use of force by the police at the protest, the detention of protestors and the harassment of supporters of the Bedoon community are the latest incidents in an on-going crackdown against members of the Bedoon community. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) issued appeals following similar protests on 4 May 2012 (http://gc4hr.org/news/view/135) and 17 April 2012 (http://gc4hr.org/news/view/122).
The GCHR believes that the detention of the twelve human rights defenders Saad Khuwaitir, journalist Abdullah Mayah Al-Otaibi, Nawaf Al-Khaldi, Jafar Abdullah, Ahmad Abdullah Al-Enizi, Faisal Qased Al-Fadhli, Asaad Hammad Al-Shammari, Nasser Hussain Obaid, Ahmad Hlail Saad, Ali Marzooq Shamran, Ghazi Qased Al-Fadhli, and Mohammed Jaser Mnady, the assault of Fatima Al-Mattar and the interrogation of Jidaan Al-Hathal are directly related to their attempt to legitimately and peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Kuwait to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release the aforementioned human rights defenders arrested on 6 July 2012 at Taimaa Square as the GCHR believes that they have been detained solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work;
- Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigations into the arrests and detention of the aforementioned human rights defenders, the excessive use of force by police at the protest and the beating of Dr. Fatima Al-Mattar, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kuwait are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you 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, recognises 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(a) “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: (a) To meet or assemble peacefully” and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threat, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is an independent centre and has been registered in Ireland. The Centre works to strengthen support for human rights defenders and independent journalists in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.