Kuwait: Kuwait- Journalist Zayed Al-Zaid imprisoned over article tackling corruption
On 27 February 2013, security forces in Kuwait arrested publisher and managing editor of "Alaan" electronic newspaper, Zayed Al-Zaid, after he arrived at Kuwait International Airport from Washington. He was arrested at the door of the plane - although he had returned to Kuwait willingly due the death of his father - and was prevented from meeting his brothers to give him their condolences.
This action took place to implement the ruling sentencing him to one month in prison in the case filed against him by former Minister of Oil Abdulmohsen Al-Madaj, accusing him of libel and slander after Al-Zaid published an article in which he expressed his opinion that there was a need to combat corruption.
The Appeal court had upheld on 20 February 2013 the ruling against him, and he was taken to the central prison to serve the sentence upon arrival in Kuwait on 27 February.
In the past, Al-Zaid has also been persecuted for his work. On 4 October 2009, Al-Zaid was subjected to brutal physical abuse because he wrote regularly about corruption. At that time, the public prosecution decided not to file a case pursuant to the recommendation of the security services, who claimed that Al-Zaid had hit himself, rather than being beaten by others, because he was in search of fame.
On 18 April 2011, Al-Zaid was among a wide range of Gulf human rights organizations and human rights defenders, academics, lawyers, and intellectuals who signed a statement calling for reform and respect for public freedoms and the release of all prisoners of conscience in Gulf countries.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the targeting and imprisonment of Al-Zaid is the result of his legitimate and peaceful work as a journalist, and in particular his public concern about the use of public funds, which is his right according to the Kuwaiti Constitution. The GCHR expresses deep concern about the safety and security of Al-Zaid while in prison.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Kuwait:
1. To immediately release journalist Zayed Al-Zaid as his targeting and imprisonment has been solely on the basis of his legitimate and peaceful writing about corruption and the right to freedom of expression.
2. To take measures to ensure the physical integrity and security of Zayed Al-Zaid.
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kuwait are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.