Kuwait: Kuwait: Nawaf Al-Hendal arrested after speaking at 28th session of UN Human Rights Council


On 23 March, 2015, human rights defender Nawaf Al-Hendal was arrested while he was carrying out his work observing violations during a peaceful gathering in Al-Erada square in front of the National Assembly in Kuwait City. He was reportedly beaten before his arrest, with nine of the demonstrators.

According to the information received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), the Special Forces suddenly attacked demonstrators gathered at Al-Erada square who were calling for reform of the judiciary and the release of detained activists. Demonstrators were beaten with batons and a number of them were arrested, including Al-Hendal. They are held at the moment at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Al-Salmiya pending interrogation.  

Latest reports confirm that the number of detainees reached 19 and they all started a hunger strike protesting their arrest and ill-treatment.

There is a widespread belief that the arrest is linked to the recent speech which Al-Hendal delivered on 20 March 2015 in Geneva during the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in which he talked about freedom of expression and opinion and the ongoing attacks on human rights defenders and Internet activists in Kuwait.

Al-Hendal is a well-known human rights defender in Kuwait and has been active in the field of monitoring violations during peaceful marches. He is also the founder and director of Kuwait Watch, a recently established non-governmental organisation that monitors and documents violations in Kuwait and the Gulf.

The GCHR believes that the arrest, detention and beating of Nawaf Al-Hendal is solely related to his work in defence of human rights in Kuwait and the exercise of his right to observe and document human rights violations in his own country.

GCHR calls on the authorities in Kuwait to:

1. Release Nawaf Al-Hendal immediately and without any condition and drop all charges against him;

2. Carry out an independent and thorough investigation into the beating to which Al-Hendal and some demonstrators were subjected during the arrest, in order to publish the results and to bring those responsible for the ill treatment to justice;

3. Release all detained peaceful demonstrator and other prisoners of conscious in Kuwait;

4. Ensure in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and Internet activists 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 the authorities in Kuwait 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, recognises 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 5 (a): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (a) To meet or assemble peacefully”, 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): “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, threat, 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.