By Courtney Trenwith
Gov’t is accused of attempting to cover up corruption after dissolving the board of Kuwaiti chapter of Transparency International
Pressure is mounting on the Kuwaiti government to reinstall the country’s chapter of Transparency International (KTS), a global organisation that aims to highlight corruption.
The Kuwaiti government dissolved the board of directors of the KTS chapter and replaced it with government appointees in May, firing staff and “illegally” disposing of the organisation’s assets, according to Transparency International and Human Rights Watch.
The move came weeks after government members claimed in parliament the KTS had exaggerated the level of corruption in Kuwait and was pursuing a political agenda, accusations the group has denied.
Transparency International said it was forced to suspend the Kuwaiti chapter from the global organisation because it did not recognise the government appointed board and needed to protect its staff.
“These developments mark a peak in the massive harassment to which KTS has been subjected on groundless allegations of political bias, ‘illegal’ affiliation to an international organisation and defamation of the image of the state of Kuwait,” Transparency International said in a statement.
“Transparency International calls on the Kuwaiti government to safeguard the space for civil society in the fight against corruption and to ensure basic rights for civil society to work free from fear, harassment and intimidation, in line with Article 13 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which Kuwait has ratified in 2007.”
The organisation’s global chairman José Ugaz said: “Civil society has a crucial part to play in the fight against corruption and no country serious about tackling graft can afford to close down organisations such as Kuwait Transparency Society.
“These actions send out entirely the wrong signals.”
Humans Rights Watch said the government’s move demonstrated its attempts to limit transparency.
“Kuwait has put in question both its willingness to tolerate criticism and its commitment to combat corruption,” deputy Middle East and North Africa director Joe Stork said.
“This looks like a classic case of shooting the messenger as a substitute for tackling the real problem.”
The Kuwaiti government has not publicly responded to the comments. But in February government members of the National Assembly accused the group of pursuing a political agenda by filing false reports to lower Kuwait’s ranking.
The MPs vowed to use all means available to the national assembly to investigate the Kuwaiti chapter.
However, the World Bank also has raised concern over Kuwait’s relatively low ranking in Transparency International’s global Corruption Perception Index.
Kuwait ranked 67 out of 174 countries, the lowest in the GCC.