Kuwait: Poet Jamal Al-Sayer remains detained amid ongoing violations of prisoners’ rights in Central Prison as well as migrant workers’ rights


Update: Kuwait: On 13 July 2021, the Criminal Court ordered the release of poet Jamal Al-Sayer without bail.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is concerned about news of several violations of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly that it has received from Kuwait. In addition, GCHR calls for migrant workers to be protected from abuse after the death of a delivery person.

Reliable local reports received by GCHR confirmed that, after two days of investigations, the Public Prosecutor issued an order on 07 July 2021 to extend the detention of poet Jamal Al-Sayer (photo on the left) for a period of 21 days, send him to the Central Prison, and bring him before the detention renewal judge this week.

A number of charges have been brought against him, including insulting the prince, broadcasting false news, misuse of the phone, and violating the Cybercrimes Law as well as Article 25 of the State Security Law, which carries a five-year prison sentence with hard labour.

Al-Sayer’s lawyer, Mashari Al-Nuif, confirmed that his client had denied all the charges against him. In a press statementhe said, "Jamal Al-Sayer is a good citizen who does not deserve the way he is being treated."

On 05 July 2021, members of the State Security Apparatus arrested Al-Sayer in a late-night raid of his house, by order of the Public Prosecution that he be arrested and detained. Reliable local sources confirmed that the only reason for his arbitrary arrest is that he addressed corruption in his poems and his writings on the Internet. For more information on the case, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2775

Once again, GCHR calls on the authorities in Kuwait to release him immediately and unconditionally in addition to dropping all false charges against him. The authorities in Kuwait must respect the general freedoms of its citizens, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

GCHR is also concerned by news that families of inmates in Central Prison are facing difficulties in communicating with them and in delivering desperately-needed clothes, medicine and food. A number of these families have confirmed that the difficulties have intensified since Major General Talal Marafie was transferred from immigration affairs to the prisons’ sector in April 2020, where he now holds the position of Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior for the Correctional Institutions Sector and Sentence Enforcement.

Well-informed local sources have confirmed to GCHR that the Police Cooperative Society has stipulated that the inmates’ families must purchase various materials exclusively from its canteen and not accept any materials purchased from other markets, in addition to the delay in delivering these necessary necessities to the inmates that may take months until it reaches the inmates.

Families also complained that they were prevented from visiting their detained relatives, for a period exceeding five months, despite the fact that they had received two doses of vaccinations against Covid-19, which has a bad psychological impact on families and the inmates as well.

In addition, the inmates’ rights are violated when they are transferred to the hospital for treatment, and despite submitting several complaints, they did not receive any written replies from the prison administration. The responses are always verbal, so responsibility can be easily evaded. 

GCHR calls on the authorities in Kuwait to fully implement the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), of which Rule 5 states, "The prison regime should seek to minimise any differences between prison life and life at liberty." This requires officials in the Ministry of Interior to ensure that the Central Prison administration respects the civil and human rights of inmates and does not violate them in any way.

Although Article 36 of the Kuwaiti Constitution guarantees freedom of expression for every person in the country, whether a citizen or an expatriate, this did not prevent the Minister of Interior Jaber Al-Ali from ordering the deportation of a Jordanian expatriate citizen for participating in a protest and expressing his opinion about the orders issued by the Cabinet of Ministers that included restrictions on the travel and entry of non-vaccinated people to public places.

On 20 June 2021, a 25-year-old Jordanian expatriate citizen Abdullah Mohammed Jbara (photo on the right), participated in a protest sit-in held in Al-Erada square organised by Kuwaiti citizens in opposition to the cabinet orders. During the protest, he appeared in a video clip talking to journalists about how citizens are restricted based on their access to vaccinations. He said, "The issue is not a disease, death or epidemic, it is a question of a way of life. How does a free person agree to restrict his freedoms? We have not previously seen these things. A very strange distinction." 

On 04 July 2021, Jbara was deported to his home country, Jordan, based on an order issued by the Minister of Interior. Press reports stated that the Minister of Interior had issued an order stating, "Any expatriate resident in Kuwait who practices a behaviour that harms the public interest, public security or public morals shall be deported."

After his deportation, a hashtag (#No_to_Abdullah_Deportation) trended on Twitter in Kuwait, where citizens, including several members of the National Assembly, called on the government to revoke the decision to deport him.

GCHR condemns the order of the Minister of Interior, which targets expatriate citizens and prevents them from participating in public life and strips them of their civil and human rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and freedom to participate in peaceful assembly. This discriminatory order not only violates all human rights principles, but also the Kuwaiti constitution. GCHR calls on the authorities to rescind their order to deport Jordanian citizen Abdullah Mohammed Jbara and allow him to return to Kuwait.

On 11 July 2021, a 41-year-old migrant worker from India, Jossi Pasha Sheikh, died while working as a delivery man. He was known among his colleagues for his good conduct and behaviour during the past nine years of work in Kuwait. The Ministry of Interior announced on Twitter that, "the criminal security sector was able to arrest the person accused of committing the murder." While working for a mobile phone company as a delivery worker, Sheikh went to a house to deliver an electronic device, but the accused refused to pay the value of the device and asked him to leave. Sheikh stayed, demanding the amount due. The accused then hit him on the head with an iron tool, knocking him unconscious to the ground, where he died.

GCHR calls on the Kuwaiti government to ensure that the perpetrator is brought to justice and to take all necessary measures to fully protect the lives of migrant workers.