Kuwait: Four Bedoon human rights defenders must be released

15.09.22

Update: Kuwait: On 15 September 2022, a judge in the Magistrate's Court decided to release human rights defenders Mohammed Barghash Odeh, Fadel Farhan Saket, Basil Atallah Zain and Abdullah Fayrouz Abdulkarim on a bail of 300 dinars.

2022-09-13

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received reliable local reports confirming that four human rights defenders who are members of the Bedoon community in Kuwait are still in detention due to their peaceful and legitimate activities in the field of human rights.

On 31 August 2022, the Public Prosecution summoned 14 human rights defenders who are members of the Bedoon community and arrested them. Four of them, Mohammed Barghash Odeh, Fadel Farhan Saket, Basil Atallah Zain and Abdullah Fayrouz Abdulkarim, are still in detention after they voluntarily presented themselves to the Public Prosecution on the same day of the summons. The following charges have been brought against them: Participating in a public gathering and not obeying the authorities after they were asked to disperse, harming the country’s reputation after publishing false information, gathering without a license, calling for an assembly without a license, misusing the phone, and misusing social media for the purpose of crime by publishing fake news.

The charges against them have not been confirmed by the authorities, pending the remand session, which will take place on 18 September 2022.

Ten of them were released after being detained for nine days. They are: Falah Mohammed Bashir, Hamad Mudath Hizam, Youssef Ghassab Mohsen, Hamid Khamat Khalaf, Salem Hassan Ashour, Dhari Hussein Khalif, Abdulhadi Khaled Ghareeb, Jabr Sharif Jabr, Hammoud Rashid Jaber and Nasser Farhan Saket. They presented themselves to the Public Prosecution on the same day as the summons, and were released on 08 September 2022 on a bail of 300 dinars. The following charges were brought against them: Gathering in a public place without a permit, and calling for an assembly in a public place.

They were all targeted only due to their active participation in peaceful gatherings and demonstrations demanding civil and human rights of the Bedoon community, including the demonstration that took place on August 26, 2022 in Freedom Square in the Taima area.

In a statement to GCHR, prominent human rights defender Abdulhakim Al-Fadhli, general coordinator of the Coalition of Forces Active in the Case of the Kuwaiti Bedoon )Solidarity), stated, "No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly except those that are imposed in accordance with the law and constitute measures necessary in a democratic society." He added, "We call on the Public Prosecution Office to drop all legal action against these peaceful demonstrators, and to respect the rights of everyone in Kuwait to participate freely and peacefully in public affairs, including the right to join peaceful demonstrations and freely express the demand for basic rights."

Al-Fadhli called on the authorities to "stop targeting supporters and demonstrators supporting the Bedoon Kuwaitis. Instead of prosecuting and punishing the protesters, the authorities should hold the officials of the Central Apparatus for the Remedy of the Situation of Illegal Residents accountable for their abject failure, administrative corruption, complicating the crises of the stateless citizens, deliberately prolonging their suffering and infringing on their basic rights, including the right to obtain a national identity."

GCHR is seriously concerned that the authorities in Kuwait are targeting more human rights defenders who participate in the struggle of the Bedoon community, and are only being investigated in relation to their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression online. GCHR calls on the government of Kuwait to immediately stop harassing all human rights defenders, expedite the resolution of the problems of the Bedoon community, and immediately grant them their human and civil rights as full citizens of Kuwait without discrimination.

GCHR calls on the government of Kuwait to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defenders Mohammed Barghash Odeh, Fadel Farhan Saket, Basil Atallah Zain and Abdullah Fayrouz Abdul Karim, as well as to drop all charges against them or their colleagues.