Over 150 people, including prisoners of conscience, continued to serve prison terms imposed after unfair trials since 1991. No information was available about scores of other political prisoners arrested in 1991 and accused of "collaboration" with Iraqi forces during the occupation of Kuwait. Four women prisoners of conscience were released in an amnesty. The fate and whereabouts of more than 70 detainees who "disappeared" in 1991 remained unknown. Five people were sentenced to death, one person was executed and 12 others remained under sentence of death at the end of the year. In October, elections were held for the 50-seat National Assembly (parliament). However, political parties were banned and the electorate consisted of only 15 per cent of Kuwaiti citizens, since women, some naturalized Kuwaitis and members of the armed forces were excluded from voting. In March, Kuwait acceded, with reservations, to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In May, Kuwait acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, again with reservations. In June, parliament rejected the first draft bill to establish an independent Kuwaiti Commission on Human Rights. After some amendments, the bill was reintroduced but had not been passed by the end of the year. The government announced in June that over 100,000 stateless people, members of the Bidun community, who claim Kuwaiti nationality, were to have their status reviewed. The review had not been completed by the end of the year. A Kuwaiti prisoner, one of eight women listed among prisoners of war or missing persons believed to be held in Iraq, was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross in May at the Iraq-Kuwait border. According to the Kuwaiti authorities, more than 600 prisoners were still missing since the withdrawal of Iraqi forces in February 1991 (see Iraq entry and previous Amnesty International Reports). At the beginning of the year, three independent Islamist lawyers brought a lawsuit against Hussein Qambar ‘Ali, a businessman, to declare him an apostate and strip him of his civil rights. Hussein Qambar ‘Ali, representing himself, first appeared in an Islamic family court in March and confirmed that he had become a Christian but asked for his case to be sent to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the Constitution allows for freedom of thought and belief. He was reported to have received death threats. Following a hearing in May, the Islamic court declared him an apostate and ordered him to pay the costs of the case. Hussein Qambar ‘Ali appealed against the ruling on the grounds that the Islamic court had no jurisdiction in his case but left the country before the appeal was heard. Over 150 political prisoners, including nine women, continued to serve prison terms in Kuwait Central Prison following their conviction on charges of "collaboration" with Iraqi forces during the occupation of Kuwait. At least 16 were prisoners of conscience. Fifty-three had been sentenced by the Martial Law Court in 1991 and the others by the State Security Court in 1992 and 1993 after trials which were unfair (see previous Amnesty International Reports). No information was available about scores of other political prisoners arrested in 1991 on suspicion of "collaboration" with Iraqi forces. Four women prisoners of conscience, one of Iraqi and three of Jordanian nationality, were granted an amnesty by the Amir, al-Shaikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah. Two political prisoners, members of the Bidun community, were reported to have been transferred to a deportation centre in 1993 and 1994 following their release before completion of their prison sentences. One of them was believed to have been deported but it was not known to which country. No information was available on the whereabouts of the other prisoner. Many of the hundreds of detainees at the Talha detention centre, set up in 1991 following the war with Iraq, remained held under administrative deportation orders which were reportedly rarely subject to any judicial review. Among those held were foreign nationals and stateless persons, some of whom may have served prison terms and continued to be held in indefinite detention after the expiry of their sentences. There were fears that the deportation of those for whom Kuwait was their own country could amount to forcible exile. Officials announced in November that plans to close down the Talha detention centre had begun in October and included the release of a "large number" of detainees. The fate and whereabouts of more than 70 detainees who "disappeared" in custody in 1991 remained unknown (see previous Amnesty International Reports). They included Muhammad Asia, who reportedly "disappeared" after being arrested in 1991. Two Kuwaiti men were sentenced to death in October and three others, in a separate case, in November. All had been convicted of murder. A Kuwaiti police officer, Badr ‘Abd al-Karim Sultan al-Bashir, was executed in September. He had been convicted of possession of drugs and of premeditated murder. At least eight political prisoners remained under sentence of death. Four other people convicted by criminal courts in previous years were believed to be on death row at the end of the year. In February, Amnesty International published a report, Kuwait: Five years of impunity – human rights concerns since the withdrawal of Iraqi forces, which highlighted the government's failure to address long-standing reports of the detention of prisoners of conscience, torture and ill-treatment, unresolved extrajudicial executions, "disappearances", and manifestly unfair trials. Other concerns documented in the report included the expulsion of people without due process, the resumption of executions and the widened scope of the death penalty. In August, Amnesty International published a report, Kuwait: Hussein Qambar ‘Ali – death threats. It included a statement issued in July by the Kuwaiti Embassy in the United Kingdom which said, among other things, that Kuwaiti law does not punish a person who converts from Islam to another faith and that, if necessary, the relevant authorities in the country would take appropriate measures to ensure Hussein Qambar ‘Ali's safety. In response to Amnesty International's concerns about the forcible deportation of members of the Bidun community, the Ministry of the Interior stated that there was no intention on the part of the authorities at present to deport any stateless persons "as long as they respect laws and regulations which secure the country's security".

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