Kuwait: Free Speech and Assembly Under Attack
Some Protections Promised for Non-Citizens
(Kuwait City, January 31, 2011) – Kuwait carried out a major crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly during 2010, Human Rights Watch said today, in issuing its World Report 2011.
The 649-page report, the organization’s 21st annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarizes major human rights issues in more than 90 countries worldwide. During 2010, the government tightened restrictions on public gatherings and began using violent methods of enforcement, Human Rights Watch said. Kuwait should allow activists to assemble peacefully and halt both state security cases and criminal defamation prosecutions against peaceful political activists, Human Rights Watch said.
“This year, Kuwait’s government grew more and more comfortable harassing Kuwaitis who dared criticize the government,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Watching what’s happening in the streets of Egypt and Tunisia, the Kuwaiti government should think long and hard about depriving people of their basic human rights to free speech and assembly.”
In April, government security agents arrested and summarily deported over 30 Egyptian residents who had gathered in a local café to discuss support for the Egyptian reform advocate Mohammed El Baradei.
In September, the interior ministry issued a decision banning public gatherings without prior approval. The ministry later said this ban included a prohibition on outdoor gatherings, in particular gatherings outside of diwaniyas, or traditional discussion salons held in private homes that occur almost daily in Kuwait. Local civil society activists criticized the decision as an unduly burdensome restriction of their freedom to peacefully assemble.