Urgent Action UA 70/15
24 March 2015
Detained Activist at Risk of Torture
Kuwaiti human rights activist Nawaf al-Hendal was arrested and beaten as he monitored apeaceful demonstration in Erada Square in Kuwait City on 23 March. He is a prisoner of conscience. At least 17 other Kuwaiti men were arrested at the same time, including a lawyer.
Nawaf al-Hendal is a well-known human rights activist who founded the Kuwait Watch Organization for Human Rights in early December 2014. He was arrested on 23 March as he was monitoring a peaceful demonstration organized by Kuwaiti opposition groups calling for reforms including “upholding freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed by the constitution”, “the release of prisoners of conscience” and “the abolition of unfair and retaliatory withdrawal of citizenship for political reasons”. Nawaf al-Hendal was beaten during arrest and had his phone confiscated.
At least 17 other men, including a lawyer, were also arrested. One of them was pulled from his wheelchair during arrest. All the men were taken to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) building where they are still held. It is not clear whether all those arrested were granted access to lawyers or were able to contact their families. They may be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:
- Urging the authorities to release Nawaf al-Hendal immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscienceheld solely for peacefully carrying out his work monitoring human rights violations, and to release the other 17 men if they are held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly;
- Calling on them to ensure that all those arrested are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and that they are granted regular access to their families and lawyers;
- Urging them to repeal all legislation that criminalizes the right to freedom of expression, and respect and protect this right.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 5 MAY 2015 TO:
Amir of the State of Kuwait
His Highness Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah
Al Diwan Al Amiri
P.O. Box 1
Fax: 011 965 2243 0559
Salutation: Your Highness
First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior
His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 12500
Fax: 011 965 2249 6570
Salutation: Your Excellency
And copies to:
Parliamentary Human Rights Committee National Assembly
P.O. Box 716
Fax: 011 965 2243 6331
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (In subject line: FAO Chairperson of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee)
Also send copies to:
H.E. Ambassador Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Embassy of the State of Kuwait
2940 Tilden St NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 364 2868
Phone: 1 202 966 0702
The Kuwaiti authorities have increased restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly and have imprisoned critics who expressed dissent using social media, and curtailed the right to public assembly.
Nawaf al-Hendal learned in January 2015, while he was in Geneva attending the review of Kuwait by the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council, that a warrant for his arrest had been issued on 27 January. The authorities withdrew the warrant on 31 January.
During the UPR, 11 reviewing states made recommendations including calling on Kuwait to guarantee the rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly, including by amending its Penal Code and other legislation relating to the media and internet in order to bring these in line with international standards and to “protect human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers against persecution and harassment.” Kuwait has to provide its response to these during the 29th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2015.
Kuwait is a state party to key international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). These covenants include the rights to freedom of expression, including “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice,” set out in ICCPR Article 19; freedom of assembly and freedom of association, set out respectively in Articles 21 and 22 of the ICCPR.