The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received information that on Tuesday 2 October 2012, a peaceful protest in Taima Square near Kuwait City, attended by approximately 3000 Bedoon people was violently dispersed by security forces. Security forces also arrested protestors, some of them minors. There are approximately 180,000 people in the Bedoon Community in Kuwait who are denied citizenship under strict nationality laws in Kuwait.
On 2 October 2012, international day for non-violence, the protesters gathered in “Freedom Square” in Taima in Jahraa on the outskirts of Kuwait City to protest for improved rights and their right to citizenship. In recent weeks members of the Bedoon community had been speaking to the media and NGOs in Kuwait calling on people to attend the protest.
Security forces under the direction of the Interior Ministry in Kuwait used tear gas, smoke bombs, batons, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the protestors. It is reported that two protestors remain in hospital having been run over by police cars at the protest. The family of one of the protestors, who is likely to lose the sight in one of his eyes after he was shot with a rubber bullet, was threatened by officials of the Interior Ministry not to sue for the injury.
It is reported that, more than 27 protestors were arbitrarily arrested on Tuesday afternoon including some from a public clinic near Taima Square and at the Jahraa hospital as they were seeking medical assistance for their injuries. Later that evening four of those who were arrested, all of them minors, were released. 16 protestors were released on Wednesday 3 October 2012 as they were suffering from injuries that they had sustained during the protest.
11 protestors remain in the Central Prison and have been denied bail. They stand accused of charges of attempting murder, attacking policemen and rioting. To date, the names of those confirmed to be detained include, Hamam Mubarak, Basil Badi, Mohammed Jasem, Waleed Khalaf, Saad Khaled Al-Fadhli, Othman Khaled Al-Fadhli , Ali Khaled Al-Fadhli, Hussain Jabr, Mubarak Tuamaa and Hussain Khashan Al-Khaldi.
Following the protest the Interior Ministry accused the Bedoon community of distracting the work of and making false accusations against the Central Agency, rioting, violence, and calling for illegal protests, vandalism, blocking traffic, and starting fires on public and private properties, risking the lives of citizens and attacking security men. On 4 October 2012 two other human rights defenders, Hamid Al-Enizi and Mohammed Habib were arrested and questioned before being released some hours later. Activist, Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli who has been arrested on a number of previous occasions, received threats online and to his mobile phone furthermore his movements are reportedly being monitored as a result of his involvement in the protest.
The arrests and excessive use of force by security forces comes in the context of on-going harassment and discrimination against the Bedoon people in Kuwait. The GCHR has issued several appeals dated 31 August 2012, 8 July 2012, 4 May 2012, 17 April 2012 and 13 February 2012, as the authorities continue to target the Bedoon. (See http://gc4hr.org/news/index/country/7)
The GCHR strongly condemns the violent and excessive use of force, the arrests and the on-going detention of some of the protestors and believes that they are directly related to the legitimate and peaceful human rights work of the Bedoon community who are peacefully demanding that their human rights are respected.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Kuwait to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release those detained following the protest on 2 October including Hamam Mubarak, Basil Badi, Mohammed Jasem, Waleed Khalaf, Saad Khaled Al-Fadhli, Othman Khaled Al-Fadhli , Ali Khaled Al-Fadhli, Hussain Jabr, Mubarak Tuamaa and Hussain Khashan Al-Khaldi;
- 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 security forces at the protest, 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.