Kuwait: Authorities must release arbitrarily detained individuals

Kuwaiti authorities have held eight individuals since 4 November without charge and interrogated all of them for several days without granting them access to a lawyer, rendering their detention arbitrary, Amnesty International said today ahead of their first hearing on 15 December.

Between 4 and 6 November, Kuwaiti security forces detained Habib Ghadanfari, Jamal al-Shatti, Khaled al-Baghli, Adel Dashti, Jasem Dashti, Musa al-Masri, Anwar al-Hazim and Jalal Jamal ­without presenting warrants for their arrest, according to three Kuwaiti human rights activists with direct knowledge of the case. The detainees are currently in Kuwait’s Central Prison awaiting a court hearing on 15 December, when their lawyers expect they will be charged as a group. All of the detainees are over 50 years of age, and at least two suffer from serious health issues.

“The detention of these eight Kuwaitis without charge for over a month represents a clear violation of their right to a fair trial. Not only have they been denied access to lawyers during pre-trial detention and interrogations, the authorities also subjected them to ill-treatment despite a number of them suffering from serious health ailments. Kuwait is failing to meet its obligation to ensure fair trial procedures and prohibit arbitrary detention under international human rights law,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

The defence team for the eight arbitrarily detained individuals is yet to receive any formal charges levelled against the detainees. This violates not only the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires authorities to promptly inform detainees of any charges they face and allow them adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence, but also Article 74 bis of Kuwait’s Code of Criminal Procedures and Trials.

The State Security Agency held and interrogated the eight detainees without access to their lawyers for between two and four days, before the Ministry of Interior transferred them to the Office of Public Prosecution (OPP). On 8 and 9 November 2021 respectively, the OPP interrogated Jasim Dashti and Adel Dashti, but did not inform their lawyer, who was only able to attend after making persistent requests.  

The lawyer was not allowed to meet privately with either Adel Dashti or Jasim Dashti, and was only allowed to be present during the prosecutors’ interrogation, where he could only speak when given permission. When the lawyer requested medical attention for Adel Dashti, who had undergone surgery in his stomach a few days prior to his arrest and had blood on his clothes from the surgical wound, prosecutors said he was receiving care from Ministry of Interior doctors, without sharing any further details.

“The Kuwaiti authorities must ensure the detainees’ right to due process and a fair trial are respected and that they receive timely legal representation and adequate medical care. If they are not promptly charged with an internationally recognized criminal offence, they must be released,” said Lynn Maalouf.

While searching Habib Ghadanfari’s home, security forces confiscated phones, computers, jewelry, gold, and money that belonged to his family, without informing them or leaving a list of what they had taken.

In reports by state-aligned Kuwaiti newspapers, unnamed government sources accuse the eight detainees of sending money to Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and armed group that is outlawed in Kuwait.

As part of the same case, state security officials detained another two Kuwaiti nationals and at least eight non-nationals, including an Egyptian, a Sudanese, an Afghan and several Syrians and Iranians. The detentions were mostly reported without names or exact dates of arrest in the government-aligned Kuwaiti press.

Amnesty International wrote to Kuwait’s National Diwan for Human Rights, the official government watchdog, to request information on their identities, dates of detention, and the charges they were facing, but did not receive a response.

Under Kuwaiti law, an interrogator can order a felony suspect to be held in custody for up to 15 days before having to bring them before a judge. After 15 days, the authorities must present the detainee to a judge, who has the power to send them into pretrial detention for up to six months. Meanwhile, lawyers accompanying clients during interrogations are not allowed to speak unless given permission by the interrogator.