Kuwait: Heavy prison sentences of activists demanding rights of citizenship
A Kuwaiti criminal court today handed prison sentences between life and 10 years in prison to three men from the stateless Bidun community, including one in his absence for their peaceful activism. The court acquitted one man, released the 12 remaining men on a pledge of good conduct for two years, and the additional condition of bail payment of 1000 Kuwaiti Dinar (approx. 3,280 USD) each for five of them, including prominent human rights defender Abdulhakim al-Fadhli. Security forces had arrested the fifteen men in July during a crackdown on peaceful protesters demanding citizenship and greater rights. Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Director, said:
Today’s sentencing is yet another illustration of the Kuwaiti authorities’ refusal to recognize the rights of the Bidun. These men should be commended for peacefully rallying and speaking out for their rights against Kuwait’s discrimination of the Bidun. They should not be facing prison sentences
“Today’s sentencing is yet another illustration of the Kuwaiti authorities’ refusal to recognize the rights of the Bidun. These men should be commended for peacefully rallying and speaking out for their rights against Kuwait’s discrimination of the Bidun. They should not be facing prison sentences.
“A humane, sustainable, and comprehensive solution to the plight of the Bidun is long overdue. More than 100,000 Bidun people face severe restrictions on their rights to access to employment and state services, particularly health care and education, and these men are being punished for daring to challenge this outrageous situation.
“We call on the Kuwaiti authorities to immediately release the two convicted men and quash the convictions and sentences of all three, as they are prisoners of conscience held solely for exercising their ‘rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly’.
Between 11 and 14 July 2019, Kuwaiti security forces arbitrarily arrested 15 Bidun men in a crackdown on peaceful protestors who had been demanding greater rights for the stateless group known as Bidun. Their trial started on 10 September 2019 and included prominent human rights defender Abdulhakim al-Fadhli and another activist living in the UK, Mohamed Waly Mutlaq (also known as Mohamed al-Badry “al-Enezi”), who was tried in absentia, bringing their number to 16.
A week later, judicial authorities released five of them provisionally.
The long list of charges includes organizing public demonstrations amongst the Bidun, participating in unlicensed or illegal demonstrations against the ruling system in Kuwait, and spreading false news. They are also charged with joining a proscribed organization, the “Kuwaiti Biduns Foundation Council”, which is an online initiative begun by Mohamed Waly Mutlaq (a former Bidun from Kuwait who now lives in the UK, where he has obtained citizenship. Al-Enezi, who is also charged as a defendant in the trial, advocates for secession of the Bidun to form a separate state if Kuwait will not grant them nationality.