This page summarizes cases raised with Kuwait by the Special Rapporteur between May 1, 2011, (when the Special Rapporteur took up his functions) and February 28, 2017 (the date of the last public release of communications). Communications are released to the public once per year. This page also contains observations on these communications and on responses received from Kuwait.
Communications and observations are divided into sections based upon which observation report they originally appeared.
Each communication is referenced as urgent appeal (UA), allegation letter (AL), joint urgent appeal (JUA) and joint allegation letter (JAL) – the hyperlinks lead to these documents. This is followed by the date the communication was issued, as well as the case number and the State reply (also hyperlinked if available).
Summaries and communications are published only in the language of submission (in the case of Kuwait, English).
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Kuwait for its response to his communication dated 6 March 2012. Official translation of this reply was pending at the time of finalizing this report.
Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur underlines that the rights of peaceful assembly and of association are to be enjoyed by all without any discrimination, including by Bidun. He urges the authorities to refrain from using force during peaceful demonstrations. A thorough and independent investigation into any allegations of excessive use of force and of torture and ill treatment, including against women, during peaceful demonstrations, should be conducted; those responsible should be held accountable; and victims should be provided with full redress.
The Special Rapporteur regrets that no response has been received from the Government of Kuwait to his communications dated 30 November 2012. He considers responses to his communications as an important part of the cooperation of Governments with his mandate, and urges the authorities to provide as soon as possible detailed responses to all the concerns raised in his communication.
The Special Rapporteur is concerned about allegations that Ms. Nada Dhaif, Chairperson of Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization was denied access to the country and deported on the grounds that her name appeared on a list, provided by the Government of Bahrain to the authorities of Kuwait in July 2012, enumerating Bahraini citizens who should be denied entry to the country. He urges the authorities to take positive measures to ensure individuals can freely exercise their right to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly and are not subject to, or threaten to be subject to, discrimination, threats or use of violence, harassment, persecution, intimidation or reprisals.
Moreover, the Special Rapporteur continues to receive allegations that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are not enjoyed by all without discrimination of any kind. He urges the authorities to refrain from using force during peaceful demonstrations and to ensure that everyone can exercise his/her fundamental freedoms.
The Special Rapporteur refers to Human Rights Council resolution 21/16, and in particular operative paragraph 1 which “reminds States of their obligation to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, online as well as offline, including in the context of elections, and including persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs, human rights defenders, trade unionists and others, including migrants, seeking to exercise or to promote these rights”.
Responses to communications
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Kuwait for responding to both the communications that were sent during this reporting period. He notes with appreciation the engagement of the country with the mandate, in compliance with Human Rights Council resolutions 24/5 (2013), 21/16 (2012) and 15/21 (2010).
Environment in which these rights are exercised
The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the detailed reply, dated 9 April 2015, to his communication of 25 February 2015 (KWT 1/2015). In light of the charges against Mr. Mohammed al-Ajmi and the sentencing of Mr. Abdulhakim al-Fadhli (known in his identity documents as Mr. Abdulhakim Abdurrazzaq Abdulhadi Shabath) in Kuwait, the Special Rapporteur restates his preoccupation that their peaceful and legitimate work advocating for the rights of Bedoon people was the rationale behind the alleged undue restriction to the exercise of their rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly, opinion and expression.
In relation to the Government’s response regarding the alleged defamation caused by the individuals concerned, the Special Rapporteur reminds that while the State do not have to agree with the opinions expressed by persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs, it has a positive obligation to ensure the existence of an enabling environment for civil society, including the enjoyment of the right of association and freedom of expression and opinion, so that it can thrive without fear (A/HRC/20/27, paragraph 63). The rapporteur is of the view that there should be a presumption in favour of holding peaceful assemblies and associating freely. Security considerations should not be used as a justification for unduly strict rules or interpretations that void the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The Special Rapporteur also contends that no restrictions may be placed on the exercise of those rights other than those that are strictly necessary in a democratic society and proportionate to the interest to be protected.Regarding the communication of 31 July 2014, in relation to the case of alleged use of force during peaceful demonstrations from 2 to 7 July 2014, the arbitrary detention of a few dozens of peaceful protestors, including Mr. Abdulhakim al-Fadhli and the inflection of serious injuries against at least five peaceful protestors, the Special Rapporteur recalls his earlier concerns and awaits further information from the Government (KWT 2/2014). He takes note of the reply of 19 September 2014, stipulating the legal framework in force in Kuwait. In relation to the response of 8 October 2014 to the same communication, he notes that the pertinent information obtained on the case is included in the communication and requests that the Government provide responses to the concerns and questions in his communication, to the greatest extent possible.
The Special Rapporteur notes the claim that certain individuals mentioned in the communication are not citizens of Kuwait. However, with regards to non-citizens or migrants, the Special Rapporteur recalls that international law does permit some “citizenship-related limitations on certain political rights, such as voting rights and the ability to hold political office” and notes that it is “precisely for that reason that States should ensure that migrants are not stripped of other fundamental rights, particularly assembly rights. An individual’s lack of citizenship or legal status does not mean that she or he should have no voice whatsoever in the political, economic or social affairs of her or his country of residence. In a sense, groups that are disenfranchised from mainstream political activities, such as voting and holding office, have an even greater need for alternative means to participate in the public sphere. Peaceful assemblies are an important tool for allowing the voices of otherwise excluded groups to be heard” (A/HRC/26/29, paragraph 25).The Special Rapporteur recalls the insight of Human Rights Council resolution 24/5, and in particular operative paragraph 2, and reminds the Government of Kuwait of its obligations to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to associate freely, including migrants and persons espousing minority or dissenting views, and to take all necessary measures to ensure that any restrictions are in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law.
Responses to communications
The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Kuwait for responding to all the communications sent during this reporting period. He is grateful for the cooperation extended to the mandate, in compliance with Human Rights Council resolutions 24/5 (2013), 21/16 (2012) and 15/21 (2010).
The recent cases in the State of Kuwait suggest that the space for the exercise of the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression and opinion by civil society, including political dissent, in the country is restricted. Particularly, the criminalization of criticism of the Government or political leadership, including under article 25 of the Penal Code of Kuwait, which has been used in this regard.
In connection with the cases of the former representative of the People’s Assembly of the State of Kuwait, Mr. Musallam Al-Barrak, and the human rights defender, Mr. Fairouz Abdullah Abd al-Kareem, the Special Rapporteur thanks the Government for its detailed replies of 14 September 2015 and 11 February 2016, respectively (KWT 5/2015 and KWT 7/2015). However, the Special Rapporteur reiterates his serious concern that the arrest, detention and conviction of Mr. Al-Barrak and Mr. Al-Kareem are related to the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of association in light of alleged criticism of the Emir of Kuwait.
Regarding the case of Mr. Nawaf al-Hendal, the Special Rapporteur welcomes his acquittal and that of 10 other defendants on 1 March 2016 (KWT 2/2015). However, he remains seriously concerned that his prior arrest, detention and the charges issued against him were acts of intimidation and reprisal in response to his work at the UN Human Rights Council and monitoring protests in the country. He reminds that international law provides for a right to unhindered access to and communication with international bodies on matters of human rights and fundamental freedoms. This right is derived from the human rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement contained in international human rights instruments and in customary international law. The right to unhindered access to and communication with international bodies is also explicitly recognised in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and is codified in specific provisions applying to certain UN human rights treaty bodies. Enjoyment of this right implies that those accessing or attempting to access or communicate with these bodies should not face any form of intimidation of reprisal for doing so. The Special Rapporteur urges the Government of Kuwait to respect these rights and to refrain from any reprisals against persons or organisations engaging with the United Nations within the field of human rights.
The Special Rapporteur takes this opportunity to restate that the term “association” denotes “any groups of individuals or any legal entities brought together in order to collectively act, express, promote, pursue or defend a field of common interests” and that the term refers to, among others, “civil society organizations, clubs, cooperatives, NGOs, religious associations, political parties, trade unions, foundations or even online associations” (A/HRC/20/27, paras. 51 and 52). He also reminds the Government of Kuwait of its negative obligation not to obstruct the exercise of the right to freedom of association and its positive obligation to ensure that civil society can carry out their legitimate work free from undue restrictions online as well as offline (A/HRC/RES/24/5, operational para. 2).
Responses to communications
The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the response of the Government of Kuwait to his communication. In this connection, he is grateful for the cooperation extended to the mandate, in compliance with Human Rights Council resolutions 24/5 (2013), 21/16 (2012) and 15/21 (2010).
Environment in which these rights are exercised
The Special Rapporteur duly takes note of the authorities’ reply stating that Mr. Abdulhakim al-Fadhli’s activities are not related to the defense of human rights, that he enjoyed full legal guarantees in the course of the judicial proceedings against him, and that he enjoyed good conditions of detention. He acknowledges the different provisions and measures adopted by Kuwait to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights defenders in the country. He welcomes the release of Mr. Abdulhakim al-Fadhli on 2 August 2016. Nevertheless, the Rapporteur remains concerned at the judicial harassment against Mr. al-Fadhli for charges linked to “incitation to participate in unlawful assemblies”, “insulting a public official”, “incitement to violence and violation of public order and safety” and his conviction to a prison term of one year. He urges the authorities to inform the Rapporteur about the result of the appeal of this decision lodged by Mr. al-Fadhli.
Regarding the allegations of excessive use of force justified by the “need to maintain security and order”, the Special Rapporteur warns against the practice of resorting to security considerations to adopt stricter measures that annul fundamental rights and freedoms. He articulates that there should be a presumption in favour of holding peaceful assemblies and associating freely. In his view, excessive restrictions, mass surveillance and shows of force attest that authorities in some Member States often presume the opposite, which has a chilling effect on civil society activism. He stresses that security considerations should not be used as a justification for unduly strict rules or interpretations that void the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
He recalls Human Rights Council resolution 24/5, which “[r]eminds States of their obligation to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, online as well as offline, including […] persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs [and] human rights defenders […], seeking to exercise or to promote these rights and to take all necessary measures to ensure that any restrictions on the free exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law.”
For the full reports, containing communications, replies and observations for all countries, see the following links: