Kuwait gov't urged to rethink laws on free speech

Human Right Watch says Gulf state has escalated punishments against people critical of the government over past year
Kuwait gov't urged to rethink laws on free speech
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By Staff writer
Sat 07 Feb 2015 09:49 AM

Kuwait’s government has in the past year escalated punishments against people critical of the government, Human Rights Watch has claimed as it released its World Report 2015.

The US-based rights group said the Kuwait government should take urgent steps to amend national laws that officials are using to crack down on free speech, and stop revoking citizenship to punish its critics and peaceful opponents.

Its annual report said over the past year, officials have brought charges against a number of critics. The government has also revoked the citizenship of critics in three cases, leaving them stateless.

“The Kuwaiti authorities seem to think that it is not enough to use lengthy jail sentences to punish critical tweets and other peaceful dissent,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“Now they are also twisting the entire concept of citizenship to strip critics of their nationality rights.”

In the 656-page world report, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.

It said the Kuwaiti government aggressively cracked down on free speech throughout 2014, using provisions of the constitution and penal code, and laws on printing and publishing, public gatherings, and misuse of telephone communications, as well as the national unity law of 2013.

The report added that the government put into effect a new telecommunications law in May that imposes severe penalties on people who create or send “immoral” messages, and gives unspecified authorities the power to suspend communication services on national security grounds.

As 2015 began, the government took further action against its critics, including the arrest of a former lawmaker, Saleh al-Mulla, on January 6 for insulting Kuwait’s Emir and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in tweets.

Human Rights Watch said over the past year, Kuwaiti authorities have stripped at least 33 people of citizenship for various reasons, including some government critics for “acts aiming to undermine the country’s security and stability, bringing harm to its institutions".

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