Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but there continued to be reports of torture and mistreatment by police and security forces against detained members of minority groups and noncitizens.
Several noncitizens claimed police or Kuwaiti State Security (KSS) force members beat them at police checkpoints or in detention. During the reporting period at least eight foreign nationals reported credible cases of abuse or mistreatment during arrest or interrogation by law enforcement, including the Ministry of Interior’s Drug Enforcement General Directorate (DEGD). In their initial meeting with prisoners, public prosecutors must ask whether the prisoner is injured; it is the prisoner’s responsibility to raise the subject of abuse. Prosecutors also look for visible injuries. If a prisoner states they are injured or if injuries are visible, prosecutors must ask how the injury happened and refer the prisoner to medical professionals.
Numerous activists representing stateless persons of Arab heritage – known in Arabic as bidoon jinsiya (without nationality) or colloquially as Bidoon – reported mistreatment at the hands of authorities while in detention. There continued to be allegations from individuals that they were subjected to unlawful detention and physical and verbal abuse in police centers and State Security detention centers. There are credible indications that police, KSS force members, and the DEGD abused prisoners during arrest or interrogation. Multiple transgender individuals have reported cases of rape and physical and verbal abuse by police and prison officials.
The government investigated complaints against police and took disciplinary action when the government determined it was warranted. As of November the Department of Oversight and Inspection at the Ministry of Interior received 591 complaints against ministry employees for abuse of power, the arbitrary application of the law, excessive use of force, and verbal or physical abuse of citizens and noncitizens. The Ministry of Interior applied disciplinary actions, including fines, detention, and removal or termination from professional postings. In more serious cases, however, individuals can bring their cases against a ministry employee to the courts, or the ministry can refer the complaint to the courts through its legal department. Of the 591 complaints received, as of November the ministry reviewed 413, 71 of which resulted in disciplinary actions and 96 of which were referred to the courts. The government did not make public the findings of its investigations or administrative punishments. The current number of complaints of sexual or physical violence reported by prisoners was unavailable, as was data on how many, if any, were terminated.
Although government investigations do not often lead to compensation for victims, the victim can utilize government reports and results of internal disciplinary actions to seek compensation via civil courts.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh due to overcrowding.
Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding continued to be a significant problem during the pandemic. Authorities hold men and women in separate prisons. Juveniles are held in separate wards within the adult prisons. Pretrial prisoners are held in the central prison, and convicted prisoners are held in the public prison. According to the Ministry of Interior, the capacity of the central prison is 2,390 inmates, and there were 3,037 inmates as of November. In a November visit to the central prison, however, the National Council for Human Rights (Diwan Huquq al-Insan or the Human Rights Diwan) stated there were 4,500 inmates. According to the Ministry of Interior, there was overcrowding at the public prison but not at the women’s prison. If a woman gives birth while imprisoned, she has the right to decide to keep her child with her in the women’s prison. As of November there were three children in the women’s prison with their mothers.
In January security officials reported to local media that there was extensive overcrowding at the deportation center because of limited flights available to return prisoners to their home countries. At the time 800 persons were detained pending deportation – mostly from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Madagascar – including families with women and children. Some individuals were held for up to nine months awaiting deportation in either police station holding cells, the deportation prison, residency violators’ holding cells, and the DEGD. The Ministry of Interior reported no overcrowding at the deportation center as of November. Press reports, however, indicated that the Ministry of Interior and the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) stopped efforts to identify and arrest illegal residents due to overcrowding at the center from October to December.
Access to and quality of food, potable water, sanitation, heating, ventilation, lighting, and medical care were adequate. The Ministry of Interior reported there was a hospital and several specialized clinics in the prison complex run by the Ministry of Health. More serious medical cases were referred to hospitals outside of the prison complex. The Ministry of Interior imposed various measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside the prisons. Only Muslims and Christians are permitted to pray and possess religious literature while detained. According to the government, prisoners were allowed to make one domestic telephone call per day and one international call per month. International observers confirmed that prisoners were able to make domestic calls via a landline for approximately 10 minutes each day. There were no reports of deaths in prisons, jails, pretrial detention, or other detentions centers attributed to prison conditions.
Administration: There were some reports of corruption and lack of supervision by the administration of the prison and detention center system. While inmates lodged complaints against prison officials and other inmates, no information was available on the resolution of these complaints. Authorities allowed Muslim imams and Christian clergy access to prisoners and detainees for religious observance, but other religions did not have this privilege.
Independent Monitoring: The Ministry of Interior permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by some nongovernmental observers and international human rights groups, although required written approval for visits by local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Authorities permitted staff from the National Assembly’s Human Rights Committee, Kuwait Red Crescent Society, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the Evangelical Church, the Kuwait Bar Association, and Human Rights Diwan to visit prisons and detention centers during the year.
Improvements: Efforts by the government to decrease the prison population to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 substantially reduced overcrowding in the prisons. In January, Amir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah issued a decree pardoning 600 prisoners. Of those pardoned, 120 prisoners were released early in February, and the others were given a penalty reduction or fine exemption. In May a second decree provided amnesty and commuted the prison terms of 459 additional convicts.
Observers indicated that sanitation and facilities maintenance had generally improved from previous years, particularly due to the government’s early release of approximately 1,000 prisoners who had committed minor offenses or served most of their time. In September the Ministry of Interior launched a new electronic monitoring system for citizens on bail or probation, which will allow those sentenced to less than three years to serve their sentences at home wearing monitoring devices. This tracking system is available only to citizens for traffic violations and criminal offenses.
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.
There were several reports of arbitrary arrest, including of citizens. In July authorities arrested poet Jamal al-Sayer after they raided his home and charged him with insulting the amir and spreading false news on Twitter. Al-Sayer posted poems on government corruption and directly addressed the amir on his social media accounts. Al-Sayer was released without bail in July and the Criminal Court acquitted al-Sayer in November. In August, KSS detained Saleh al-Rasheedi, a Ministry of Interior employee, without telling him the reason for his arrest after he reported corruption concerns over government contracts. Al-Rasheedi was released after 10 days. Other reports indicated that the KSS pulled over and arrested arbitrarily three human rights activists; the activists were later released.
Pretrial Detention: Arbitrary and lengthy pretrial detention sometimes occurred. Authorities held some detainees beyond the maximum detention period of six months. The length of pretrial detention did not equal or exceed the maximum sentence for the crime. NGOs familiar with the judicial system reported that they believed the number of judges and prosecutors working at the Ministry of Justice was inadequate to process cases in a timely manner. In April the government amended its freedom of speech laws to prohibit pretrial detention for defendants in freedom of expression cases. Prolonged detention at the government-run Talha Deportation Center was also a problem, particularly when a migrant worker detainee allegedly owed money to a citizen or lacked in-country diplomatic representation able to facilitate exit documents. International organizations stated that these cases could take up to one month to resolve. The government stated that most deportation cases were resolved within three days. There were 657 individuals held in pretrial detention as of November.
The law provides detainees with the ability to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court, except when related to questions of citizenship or residency status. Questions of citizenship or residency status are not subject to judicial review, so noncitizens arrested for unlawful residency (or those whose residency is canceled due to an arrest) have no access to the courts. The law allows government authorities to administratively deport a person without judicial review but requires the person to be a threat to the national security or harmful to the state’s interests. The law is broadly used and subjects noncitizens charged with noncriminal offenses, including some residency and traffic violations, to administrative deportations which they cannot challenge in court. Some migrant workers administratively deported lacked access to labor dispute mechanisms.
Noncitizens charged in criminal cases face legal deportation, which they can challenge in court.
The law and the constitution provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. The Supreme Judicial Council nominates all prosecutors and judges and submits nominations to the amir for approval. Judges who were citizens received lifetime appointments until they reached mandatory retirement age. Noncitizen judges held one- to three-year renewable contracts. The Supreme Judicial Council may remove judges for cause. In September the Chief of the Supreme Judicial Council and Chairman of the Court of Cassation Council began implementing the “Kuwaitization plan” for the judiciary, as part of a government initiative to recruit more of its own citizens for public sector employment. The chief said the council agreed to admit graduates of the faculties of law and sharia to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Generally, the judiciary was independent; however, noncitizen residents involved in legal disputes with citizens frequently alleged the courts showed bias in favor of citizens. In some cases legal residency holders – principally migrant workers – were detained and deported without recourse to the courts.
The constitution and the law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Cybercrime agents within the Ministry of Interior regularly monitored publicly accessible social media sites, however, and sought information regarding owners of accounts, although foreign-owned social media companies denied most requests for information.