Kuwait: Criminal Court issues rulings against human rights defenders from the Bedoon community
On 28 January 2020, the Fourth Circuit Criminal Court issued rulings against 16 Bedoon human rights defenders, describing them as "illegal residents", and sentenced two of them to ten years in prison, followed by deportation, and one defendant in absentia to life in prison. The ruling, a copy of which was reviewed by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), constitutes a violation of their right to obtain Kuwaiti citizenship as they have lived with their parents in these countries for too many years.
The 16 Bedoon human rights defenders are Mohammad Wali Al-Anezi, Reda Thamer Al-Fadhli, Hamoud Rabah Hamoud (Hamoud Al-Rabah), Abdualhakim Al-Fadhli, Abdullah Al-Fadhli, Hamid Jamil, Ahmed Majeed Al-Onan, Yousif Obaid Al-Bashiq, Khalifa Al-Anezi, Awad Salih Al-Onan, Jarallah Al-Fadhli, Yousif Badr Al-Osmi, Mutaib Sebhan Al-Onan, Ahmed Shaya Al-Anezi, Mohammad Khudair Al-Anezi, and Badr Khudair Matar.
The verdict was issued in the presence of all the activists, except for human rights defender Mohammad Wali Al-Anezi, who left the country and was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment with labour. Human rights defenders Reda Thamer Al-Fadhli, and Hammoud Rabah Hamoud (Hamoud Al-Rabah) were also sentenced to ten years in prison with labour, and no opportunity to suspend the sentence.
The three defenders were convicted of numerous charges such as, publishing information on the Internet to incite violations of laws; intentionally misusing a means of communication; publicly calling to rise up by force over the existing system in the country; and incitement to overthrow the existing government in the country by illegal means. The court also decided to deport them from the country after completing the punishment.
The court acquitted the other Bedoon activists of various charges, including participating in a group prohibited by law; carrying out, without the government's permission, hostile action against a foreign country; broadcasting false news abroad about the internal situation in the country; publicly calling to rise up by force against the existing system in the country; incitement to overthrow the existing system of government in the country by illegal means; publishing information on the Internet to incite violations of laws; and intentionally misusing a means of communication.
Despite this, the court decided to refrain from pronouncing punishment in relation to the remaining charges against human rights defenders, Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli, Abdullah Al-Fadhli, Hamid Jamil, Ahmed Majeed Al-Onan, Yousif Obaid Al-Bashiq, Khalifa Al-Anezi, Awad Saleh Al-Onan, Jarallah Al-Fadhli, Yousif Badr Al-Osmi, Mutaib Sebhan Al-Onan, Ahmed Shaya Al-Anezi, and Mohammad Khudair Al-Anezi. The Court instructed them to submit a bail of 1,000 dinars (approx.3290 US$) except for Badr Khudair Matar, who was not required to pay bail. The Court also ordered the confiscation of the means of communication used, namely their phones, and computers.
The defense team for the activists, which consisted of five lawyers, has protested to the court the unconstitutionality of articles in the law against information technology crimes, according to which some of their clients were referred to trial. Therefore, the public prosecutor’s order to arrest them is also void, thus nullifying the consequent implementation and investigation. They described the accusations leveled against their clients as "machinations”, and they affirmed that there was no connection between the 15 human rights defenders and Mohammed Wali Al-Anezi, who was still living outside Kuwait.
Reliable local sources confirmed that all those who have not been punished will be released today, except for Mohammad Khudhair Al-Anezi due to charges he is facing in another separate case.
GCHR strongly believes that the trial of the sixteen Bidoon activists is a flagrant violation not only of basic human rights principles but also of the Kuwaiti constitution, which stipulates the right of individuals to exercise their civil and human rights, including peaceful assembly, and the use of social networks to express opinions.
Ahead of Kuwait's Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations on 29 January 2020, GCHR, the International Service for Human Rights, CIVICUS and the MENA Rights Group made a submission encouraging States to consult local activists and make recommendations to Kuwait regarding the protection of human rights defenders. Read the report at: https://gc4hr.org/report/view/106
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights urges the government of Kuwait to:
- Drop all judgments against the 16 human rights defenders of the Bedoon community immediately and unconditionally, release all human rights defenders from the Bedoon community and the rest of the activists immediately and unconditionally, and drop all further charges that may be brought against them;
- Grant the right to an independent forensic medical examination for everyone who was allegedly subjected to abuse and torture. Any evidence obtained by torture should be excluded from any trial. Likewise, the competent Kuwaiti authorities should conduct independent and impartial criminal investigations into allegations of torture;
- Fully recognise the civil and human rights of the Bedoon community in Kuwait; and
- Ensure, in all circumstances, that all human rights defenders in Kuwait are able to carry out their legitimate work in the field of human rights without fear of punishment, and in freedom from all restrictions, including judicial harassment.