Kuwait: Kuwait: Court of Cassation releases human rights defender Sulaiman bin Jassim among dozens of prisoners
On 18 February 2018, the Kuwaiti Court of Cassation ordered the release of human rights defender Sulaiman bin Jassim and dozens of others who were sentenced to prison after demonstrators stormed the National Assembly in 2011. The Court of Appeal had sentenced 67 people to prison, while the case was still before the courts. Reports confirmed that the Court of Cassation will hold its next hearing on 04 March 2018 to complete the proceedings.
At the time of the hearing, Bin Jassim was on the fifth day of his second hunger strike in protest against his detention.
On 28 January 2018, the Court of Cassation’s Prosecutor submitted a memorandum to the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the land, setting out its position on the case of those convicted of storming the National Assembly. The memorandum regarded the Court of Appeal ruling against the 67 defendants as null and void due to the denial of the right of defense. This right was not granted to them, although it is guaranteed by local law. As well, defendants were not informed of the due process of the hearings that led to their conviction.
On 27 November 2017, the Court of Appeal sentenced 67 people to prison for storming the National Assembly on 16 November 2011, including Bin Jassim, prominent opposition leader Mussalam Al-Barrak, and current and former members of parliament. Bin Jassim, who is co-founder of the National Committee for Monitoring Violations (NCV), was sentenced to seven years in prison, although he had previously been acquitted by the Court of First Instance with the other accused in December 2013, after the court accepted evidence that the people entered parliament to get away from violence in the streets. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1741.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has learned that prison sentences were already suspended against some of the 67 defendants, leaving only 38 of the group who were held in the Central Prison to be released after the ruling.
On 03 January 2018, Bin Jassim began his first hunger strike to protest the unfair way in which the authorities dealt with his trial, as well as to draw the attention of the international community, including human rights organisations, to his case. See https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1765
On 10 January, the hunger strike was ended as it achieved the goals for which it was organised, including large coverage by human rights organisations and the media.
GCHR expresses serious concern at the fabricated charges and unfair trial of the Kuwait 67 including Sulaiman Bin Jassim, who has been targeted solely for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.
GCHR urges the authorities in Kuwait to:
- Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Sulaiman Bin Jassim and other prisoners of conscience;
- Ensure that the Court of Cassation’s Prosecutor and the judiciary in general are meeting the international standards of fair trial and due process in all their work including cases that involve human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kuwait are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities, and that everyone is free to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly peacefully, without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
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 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (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.”