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Amnesty International, 2001 Annual Report on Kuwait

Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 at 06:01 PM CT

Covering events from January - December 2000


State of Kuwait
Head of state: al-Shaikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah Head of government: al-Shaikh Sa'ad al-'Abdallah al-Sabah Capital: Kuwait City
Population: 1.9 million
Official language: Arabic
Death penalty: retentionist
2000 treaty ratifications/signatures: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

At least 42 political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, convicted in unfair trials since 1991, continued to be held. The fate of more than 70 people who ''disappeared'' in custody in 1991 remained unknown. At least 21 people were sentenced to death. One man was executed in February. The campaign to secure voting rights for women suffered a setback.


In July the UN Human Rights Committee examined the first report submitted by Kuwait since its accession in 1996 to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Committee expressed its concerns about a number of issues, including the number of people still imprisoned following their conviction in 1991 by the Martial Law Court in trials which did not meet minimum international standards of fair trial set by the ICCPR. The concluding observations of the Committee recommended that ''[t]he cases of persons still held under such sentences should be reviewed by an independent and impartial body, and compensation should be paid...where appropriate''. No steps to implement this recommendation were known to have been taken by the end of the year.


Women's rights activists continued their struggle to gain the right to vote and stand for political office. After being turned away by officials from registration centres, which opened in February to update the all-male voters' lists, a number of women filed a complaint against the Minister of the Interior, al-Shaikh Mohammad Khaled al-Sabah. This challenge to the legitimacy of Kuwait's electoral law, which denies women the right to vote, was heard by the Constitutional Court in June and was rejected. The verdict in another complaint against the electoral law was due to be delivered by the Constitutional Court in January 2001. In a public statement, AI urged the government to withdraw its reservations to the UN Women's Convention and the ICCPR and to give women all human rights.

BIDUN (stateless people)

In May the National Assembly passed legislation restricting the number of those who might qualify to apply for citizenship to less than one third of the total number of stateless Bidun remaining in Kuwait. The first trial of a Bidun, on charges of forgery and illegally staying in Kuwait, began in September. Fifty other people were reported to be under investigation and 13 in detention on similar charges. If found guilty, they could face up to seven years in prison followed by deportation. In effect, thousands of stateless Arabs living in Kuwait for decades could face compulsory deportation if they failed to legalize their status by the end of 2000.


Provisions of the Penal Code, along with articles in the Printing and Publications Law (Press Code) were used to limit freedom of expression.

  • In March the Misdemeanours Appeal Court handed down fines to two women writers - Laila al-'Othman, originally sentenced to two months' imprisonment, and 'Alia Shu'aib - and their publisher, Yahya Rubi'yan. The Appeal Court upheld charges of breaching public decency and using profane and impious language made against Laila al-'Othman; 'Alia Shu'aib was acquitted of all charges except those relating to Press Code violations; charges relating to violations of the Press and Penal Codes against Yahya Rubi'yan were upheld.


At least 21 people were sentenced to death following convictions for murder and drug-related offences. Two others sentenced to death in previous years had their sentences upheld by the Supreme Court. At the end of the year at least 30 people were reported to be on death row, the majority of them having been convicted of drug offences or murder. A Kuwaiti national, Matar al-Mutairi, sentenced to death in 1996 for murder, was hanged in February.


The death sentence against Ala' Hussein Ali, a former colonel in the Kuwaiti army who led the so-called provisional government of Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation in 1990, was upheld by an appeal court in July. In December the Court of Cassation adjourned its proceedings until January 2001 in response to an appeal by the defence.

AI country visits
AI delegates visited Kuwait in February. They met senior officials, including the Minister of Justice, and attended a session of the writers' trial. Following the visit, the authorities informed AI that Sabiha Rasan Khallati had been granted an amnesty earlier in the year. She had been detained since 1991 after an unfair trial.

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