Kuwait: Journalist and writer Aisha Al-Rasheed detained under Cyber Crimes Law
Update: Kuwait: On 06 January 2019, the Public Prosecutor's Office ordered the release of writer and journalist Aisha Al-Rasheed on bail after she was detained on 02 January by the Criminal Investigation Department; following complaints by the the Office of the Emir of Kuwait and some of its employees.
On 02 January 2019, security forces in Kuwait arrested journalist and writer Aisha Al-Rasheed under the Cyber Crimes Law following online posts, in violation of her right to freedom of expression.
The Public Prosecutor's Office summoned Al-Rasheed after the Office of the Emir of Kuwait and some of its employees filed five complaints against her in the Department of Cyber Crimes in relation to some recordings attributed to her which were spread on social media networks in addition to WhatsApp. She talked in these recordings about the corruption of some government figures.
A subsequent report received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that the Public Prosecution ordered her detention until 06 January 2019 pending investigation.
Kuwait’s Cyber Crimes Law no. 63, which came into force on 12 January 2016, has already had an impact on freedom of expression and online activism in Kuwait. The legislation contains 21 articles which seek to regulate a number of online activities in Kuwait. Article 6 punishes editors and writers with up to one year imprisonment and a fine of up to 20,000 Dinars for, among other things, “criticising the Head of State” (the Emir). It also prohibits acts which “prejudice public morals or incite to breach public order or violation of laws or to commit crimes even if the crime did not occur.”
While Kuwait has generally demonstrated more respect for freedom of expression compared to other Gulf countries in the past, GCHR is concerned that the authorities are using the Cyber Crimes Law to persecute journalists and human rights defenders, rather than using it to fight actual criminal activities.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) urges the authorities in Kuwait to:
- Immediately and unconditionally free Aisha Al-Rasheed, who is being held in violation of her right to freedom of expression;
- Refrain from using the Cyber Crimes Law to target human rights defenders, online activists and journalists; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all journalists, Internet activist, and 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.