Riot police used excessive force against peaceful demonstrators as part of a crackdown on freedoms of expression and assembly. Thousands of stateless Bidun continued to be denied Kuwaiti nationality and thus access to health care, education and employment on the same basis as citizens. Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. Migrant domestic workers were exploited and abused by their employers. At least one person who died in custody may have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Nine death sentences were passed, four of which were commuted. No executions were reported.
The authorities increased restrictions on freedoms of assembly and expression, including by prosecuting some social media users. Riot police used excessive force, tear gas and stun grenades against peaceful demonstrations by government opponents and Bidun.
In the run-up to the 1 December parliamentary elections, a series of demonstrations called “March of Dignity” was organized by government opponents, in part to protest against proposed amendments to the parliamentary election law.
Following a large gathering in October, the authorities invoked a 1979 law banning gatherings of more than 20 people. While some demonstrations were allowed to take place, others, including one on 27 December, were forcibly dispersed.
Former parliamentarians, activists and children were among those arrested during demonstrations. Most were released within a few days; some faced charges.
A proposal to amend the law on blasphemy to make “insulting God, his prophets and his messengers” a capital offence was vetoed by the Amir.
Legislation halving the maximum period of police custody without a court order from four days to two was enacted in July.
Reports suggested that torture or other ill-treatment may have been a factor in the death of Nawaf al-Azmi, one of five reported cases of deaths in custody.
More than 100,000 stateless Bidun, long-term residents of Kuwait, continued to be denied nationality. Hundreds held regular, peaceful demonstrations. Security forces occasionally forcibly dispersed these demonstrations, arbitrarily arresting dozens. Over 150 Bidun demonstrators faced trial.
On 18 October, the Prime Minister told Amnesty International that the government would extend Kuwaiti nationality to 34,000 Bidun and resolve the remaining cases within five years.
In February, the CERD Committee recommended that the Kuwaiti authorities issue civil documents to all people in Kuwait and give the Bidun access to adequate social services, education, housing, employment, property and business registration rights, among other things.Top of page
Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. In September, the Supreme Judicial Council announced that women could apply for various posts in the Public Prosecution and judiciary. This followed lawsuits brought against the Ministry of Justice by women law graduates in 2011, after the Ministry advertised certain jobs as open to men only.Top of page
Migrant domestic workers remained unprotected by Kuwait’s labour laws and continued to face exploitation and abuse by employers. The labour sponsorship (kafala) system did not adequately protect migrant workers, and non-Kuwaitis were prohibited from forming collective bodies.
The CERD Committee recommended that Kuwait adopt specific labour legislation to protect foreign and domestic workers and guarantee their rights according to international standards, including the ILO conventions to which Kuwait is a party.Top of page
Nine death sentences were passed, four of which were commuted. Others were upheld by the Appeals Court. Three other death sentences imposed in 2011 on two Iranians and a Kuwaiti for “espionage for Iran” were reduced to life imprisonment on appeal. Three people facing execution for murder were pardoned by their victims’ relatives. No executions were reported.Top of page