Human rights activists involved in defending and monitoring the rights of the Bedoon community in Kuwait continue to be targeted by the authorities. Over the past few days, three human rights activists have been summoned for investigation against the backdrop of continued protests. There are approximately 180,000 people in the Bedoon Community in Kuwait who are denied citizenship under strict nationality laws in Kuwait. They have been protesting for three years demanding their basic human rights however, they continue to be subjected to marginalisation and oppression.
The Office of Public Prosecution summoned human rights defender Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli to appear before the state security authorities for questioning. He was previously arrested in December 2012 for his work in defence of the rights of the Bedoon in Kuwait. The GCHR issued two previous appeals on his arrest and subsequent hunger strike. (For further information please see GCHR appeals dated 15 December 2012 and 24 January 2013). It is believed that this latest incident is similarly related to his human rights activities.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received information that the Public Prosecution Office also summoned human rights defenders Nawaf Al-Hendal and Hadeel Buqrais to appear before the state security authorities for investigation. Both activists were involved in monitoring and documenting human rights violations in Kuwait including during Bedoon demonstrations, which are often targeted by state security forces. They have not attended any invistigation as yet and no known charges have been brought against any of the three activists.
The summoning of the human rights defenders comes in the context of continued demonstration by members of the Bedoon community in Taimaa area calling for the release of Bedoon activist Abdullah Atallah who was arrested on 19 February 2014. That day and as part of the third anniversary of Bedoon protests in Kuwait which first started on 18 February 2011, Abdullah Atallah had given a speech at a Bedoon demonstration. During the speech he criticised the current and former Ministers of the Interior. He emphasised the feeling of discrimination experience by the Bedoon community.
Later that night he was pursued by state security police in five cars. They crashed into his vehicle before arresting him. He is reportedly facing charges of “insulting the Amir”, “vandalizing police cars” and “taking part in an illegal protest.”
The GCHR believes that these latest incidents and the summoning of Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli, Nawaf Al-Hendal and Hadeel Buqrais form part of a continued and relentless campaign of discrimination against the Bedoon community and their supporters. Those working peacefully and legitimately on behalf of the Bedoon to promote and protect their human rights are being subjected to on-going fear and harassment.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Kuwait to:
- Ensure the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli, Nawaf Al-Hendal and Hadeel Buqrais as they carry out their peaceful and legitimate human rights work;
- Immediately and unconditionally grant the right of citizenship to all Bedoon in Kuwait;
- Ensure that the human rights, including the right to citizenship, of the Bedoon are promoted and protected;
- 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 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“, 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, threats, 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.”