Kuwait: Arbitrary detention of Bidun rights activist Abdulhakim Al Fadhli

On 1 May 2012, Mr Abdulhakim Al Fadhli, a well-known activist for the rights of Bidun (stateless) in Kuwait, was arrested for the third time this year and who is now charged with calling for and participating in demonstrations. Alkarama strongly condemns the persecution of Mr Al Fadhli which clearly violates his right to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly and is solely based on his commitment to the cause for equal rights of the Bidun in Kuwait.

 
The Bidun in Kuwait
 An estimated 120'000 to 180'000 persons living in Kuwait are denied Kuwaiti citizenship, despite being of full Kuwaiti origin. These stateless called Bidun suffer from discrimination in all aspects of their life, be it private or public. They cannot marry by law and, of course, Bidun cannot take part in the governance of their country as they can neither vote nor present themselves as a candidate to legislative elections.

In the context of increasing political turmoil across the Arab world, the Bidun, too, have started to take their calls for recognition and equal rights to the streets. Since the beginning of 2011, there has been a constant increase in Bidun activity and starting from 10 December 2011 there have been regular demonstrations, many of which have been brutally dispersed by the Kuwaiti security forces.

However, on 11 January 2012, the Ministry of Interior put an abrupt ending to this relative freedom when it announced that 'illegal residents' were again forbidden from 'organising any rallies, gatherings, sit-ins or demonstrations regardless of their nature, objective, and mission'. This announcement was followed by the arrest of over 60 persons during demonstrations on 13 January 2012.

Persecution of Mr Al Fadhli
 Nearly a fortnight later, on 29 January 2012, 36-year-old Abdulhakim Al Fadhli was informed that an arrest warrant had been issued against him and at least 12 further activists. The group was charged with 'incitement to demonstrate', 'resisting security agents' and 'forming a secret cell' as well as further points clearly indicating that they had been arrested for their political activities. They were acquitted on 6 March 2012, after having undertaken a hunger strike to protest against their arbitrary detention, and then released the next day. Mr Al Fadhli was arrested a second time this year while participating in a demonstration on 29 March. He was again released on 1 April 2012.

Most recently, Mr Al Fadhli planned to participate in a peaceful march in Taima, a suburb west of the country's capital, on 1 May 2012. However, Mr Al Fadhli was arrested by Kuwaiti police forces before even leaving the premises of Al Shabi Mosque where the march was scheduled to start. Since his arrest, Mr Al Fadhli's detention warrant is renewed by the Public Prosecutor by 24 hours every day. On the third day of his detention, 3 May 2012, Mr Al Fadhli was brought before the Public Prosecutor who charged him, again, with 'incitement to demonstrate', 'participation in an illegal assembly' and 'participation in an unauthorised demonstration' as well as further alleged criminal offences.

Mr Al Fadhli's lawyer was not able to provide legal assistance his client when he was charged. Neither the lawyer nor Mr Al Fadhli's relatives have been given the possibility to communicate with him and since his arrest on 1 May 2012, they do not even know where he is detained.

As a consequence Mr Al Fadhli's detention and the legal proceedings against him must be considered to not comply with the established standards and norms of international law and to be in blatant violation of the Kuwaiti authorities' obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We fear that Mr Al Fadhli, being prevented from contact with his family and lawyer, is at risk of ill-treatment. We therefore call on the Kuwaiti authorities to ensure that Mr Al Fadhli's situation be brought in accordance with national and international law. To this end, Alkarama considers Mr Al Fadhli's immediate and unconditional release to be the only appropriate solution.

Alkarama has informed the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association as well as other UN Special Procedures of Mr Al Fadhli's case and asked for their urgent intervention with the Kuwaiti authorities. We will monitor the evolution of Mr Al Fadhli's situation closely.
 
For more information or an interview, please contact media@alkarama.org (Dir: +41 22 734 1008).

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