Kuwait: Detainees subjected to torture and ill-treatment

05.12.21

Detainees in Kuwait, including 11 members of the charitable committee headed by Habib Ghazanfari (photo on the left), were subjected to violations that began from the moment of their arrest in November 2021, and during their detention and interrogation by the State Security Bureau and the Public Prosecution.

They were all arbitrarily arrested by the State Security Bureau, without notice or a judicial warrant. Reliable local sources confirmed that members of the State Security Bureau completely searched the house of Habib Ghazanfari, where the belongings of his family, including money, jewelry and gold, were stolen without the family knowing the amount that was confiscated. In addition, they searched the house of Jamal Al-Shatti, and confiscated mobile phones and electronic devices.

According to reliable local reports, the State Security Bureau put them in dark solitary cells with no windows through which sunlight could pass, so they lost the ability to distinguish between night and day. During the periods when they were allowed to sleep, the lights were kept on, which prevented them from sleeping. Oftentimes, they were kicked on their backs to keep them from sleeping.

The State Security Bureau continued to interrogate them for four consecutive days, continuously, for long hours, day and night. They were subjected to ill-treatment during interrogation, which includes beatings, verbal abuse, insults, threats of electric shocks and being slapped in the face and suspended from the ceiling by their legs. They were investigated without the presence of their lawyer.

When they were transferred to the Public Prosecution Office at the Palace of Justice, they were placed in a group cell after being handcuffed, blindfolded, and had headphones placed on their ears to prevent them from hearing. As a result, they have fallen ill, especially since most of them are elderly and suffer from chronic diseases. These violations were committed by the security forces responsible for the process of transferring them from the State Security Bureau to the Public Prosecution Office.

The investigations in the Public Prosecution lasted 18 hours late into the night, after the state security apparatus' lengthy investigations, which caused the detainees to become doubly tired and exhausted. They were denied the presence of their lawyer during this interrogation for the first week. This led to false confessions being extracted, to be directed against the prisoners.

In addition to all these violations of their civil and human rights as prisoners and citizens, the Public Prosecutor issued a decision preventing them from contacting their families and preventing visits from them, as well as preventing them from meeting lawyers during the first week of their detention. This is in stark contrast to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), including Rule 5, which states, "The prison system should endeavour to minimise the differences between prison and free life."

In another separate case, on 01 December 2021, an imprisoned pilot, Captain Ahmed Ashour (picture on the right), ended his hunger strike – during which he also refused to take his medicine, which lasted for seven days, after the Central Prison administration responded to his demands and transferred him to his own cell.

Recommendations

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) urges the authorities in Kuwait to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release all detainees working in the Charitable Committee, along with other innocent citizens who are arbitrarily detained, and drop all charges against them because charitable work is not a crime punishable by Kuwaiti law;
  2. Pending their release, transfer them to an official government prison where the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) are fully applied;
  3. Protect public freedoms, including the right to freely carry out charitable work; and
  4. Ensure in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and online activists in Kuwait are able to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of reprisals and without restrictions including judicial harassment.