Kuwait: Egregious Claims on Poor Humanitarian Conditions in Prison for the “Abdali Cell” Case Prisoners

Following the continued violations of the humanitarian and legal rights related to the convicts of the so-called “Abdali Cell” case, which were mentioned in the human rights reports of the United Nations: according to their families’ testimonies, the defendants are still suffering from abuse and discrimination while in prison, with the testimonies of the denial of rights being reported periodically. Recently, Salam for Democracy and Human Rights received several testimonies from the families of the convicts about new violations focusing on several points, the most important of which are abuse, medical neglect and infringement upon the right to healthcare, depriving prisoners of their right to see their families under the pretext of the pandemic despite vaccination and medical precautions, continued harassment due to sectarian affiliation, and violations of the general rights of prisoners, which are as follows:

  1. Medicine and Healthcare:

In general, the transfer of prisoners to hospitals is delayed in various ways, and the transfer period has taken weeks, despite the presence of critical and dangerous health conditions that require immediate health care, as has happened with the prisoners Zuhair Al-Mahmeed and Jaafar Haider.

Prisoners complain about the absence of specialized doctors for health checks inside the prison, therefore making it necessary to see doctors in the country’s public hospitals, and thus restrictions and abuse are exercised when transferring them to specialized hospitals.

If transfers to and from hospitals occur, they are accompanied by multiple procedural inconveniences, delays, and hardships. The prisoner is transferred to more than one place inside the prison and left to wait for hours without any consideration being given to his health condition, before being transferred to the hospital after a long period of suffering and harm.

Prisoners are subjected to insults, indignities, and ill-treatment by members of the special forces entrusted with the process of transferring them from the prison to the hospital. The content of the insults varies: from hate speech, abuses, and insults because of their religious beliefs and sectarian affiliation, to racism related to ethnic origins and direct challenges to their national affiliations and loyalties. This recently happened when prisoner Jaafar Haider was admitted to the hospital.

The process of transferring the prisoner to the hospital is usually accompanied by 12 vehicles and armed individuals, though initially, this process was carried out by one vehicle accompanying the sick prisoner, denying any justification for this procedure and the unjustified summoning of the security. This harassment led to the psychological harm of ill prisoners and was a factor that deterred them from requesting any transfers to hospitals despite the deterioration of the condition of their health and their urgent need for periodic and continuous healthcare. This is what repeatedly happened with the prisoner Zuhair Al-Mahmeed, who is old and suffers from serious chronic diseases in the heart, the spine, and the eye, and is in dire need of a consultation by specialized doctors. Despite the damage to his health, Zuhair began to be reluctant in asking for any transfer to the hospital due to the harm, harassment, insults, and delays to which he is exposed when being transported. The image of an elderly man entering a public hospital unjustifiably accompanied by a large group armed to the teeth draws people’s attention, causing psychological harm to him and other prisoners. Therefore, the issues of transportation and access to treatment and healthcare were some of the prisoners’ urgent demands, ensuring they are performed in a manner that preserves their legal rights and their human dignity. 

  1. Depriving Prisoners of Seeing Their Families Despite Vaccinations and Precautions:

Prisoners complain that they are denied their right to see their relatives, and that the prison authorities have prevented visits for nearly two years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, without the authorities taking into consideration that prisoners have completed the vaccination process against the virus, and that they have observed health precautions during the visit. Noting that Kuwait is currently witnessing a decrease in infection cases and is easing health-related restrictions. This was one of the most urgent and repeated humanitarian demands of several prisoners in this case and others.

  1. Racial and Sectarian Insults and Infringements

Testimonies were received from prisoners about the continued harassment, and sectarian and racist insults against them since the beginning of the arrest, with these violations continuing inside the prison, in the lead of the head of the prison’s internal security, Sergeant Sami Al-Adwan. Several testimonies from prisoners stated that this official behaves towards prisoners with sectarianism in mind and deals with them based on sectarian considerations that have nothing to do with the behavior and conduct of the prisoners. There are several complaints from other prisoners against this official and the occurrence of many ethical and legal violations inside his prison with his knowledge, without him enacting his duties and responsibilities towards those violations, inevitably leading to neglect and cover-ups. These include:

  • Recently, the deliberate ‘tightening’ was part of a series of harassments carried out by this official against the prisoners, as he ordered to reduce the number of prison rooms belonging to this group of prisoners, despite their previous complaints about the lack of space and overcrowding in cells. It is worth noting that space is available inside the prison according to the inmates’ testimonies, and there are many empty cells available.
  • Surveillance cameras have been installed in a way that violates all the privacy of the prisoner and his human and legal rights and does not leave him privacy even when he needs to attend his needs. The Sergeant has also placed electronic devices to which exposure for long periods of time causes serious health damage and effects, especially for people who suffer from chronic conditions and heart diseases. Some other scientific studies also indicate that these devices may be linked to and inducing cancer cases. It is important to mention that two of the prisoners in this case are chronic heart patients.
  • Sectarian and factional-toned discriminations against the prisoners in the Abdali case still continue regarding their right to attend the funerals and burial ceremonies of their relatives and to receive condolences. Recently, the prisoner Muhammad Al-Husseini was prevented from attending the burial of his grandmother after her death, and the prisoner Hassan Al-Attar was previously prevented from attending the burial of his mother, as well as the prisoner Mohsen Al-Shatti from attending his sister’s funeral, despite the fact that many other prisoners were allowed to participate in the funerary events of their relatives and were given their human and legal rights.
  • Some other prisoners reported that a few days ago, there was a forced sexual assault inside the prison headed by this official on a Filipino prisoner by 3 other prisoners. A similar incident occurred a while ago for another prisoner in his twenties, and, as a result of it, the person who was abused is still suffering psychological damage. When the official became aware of these incidents and violations, he did not take any action despite his responsibility, and contented himself with covering the matter.
  • The official stopped and prevented the entry of foodstuffs to prisoners inside the prison ward, a matter that had been previously going on for long periods, and, from this, there is suspicion of corruption and misuse of the job.

The Nature of the Charges and Judgements:

On 13/08/2015, 23 Kuwaiti citizens were unlawfuly arrested on charges of joining the Lebanese organization, Hezbollah, according to the authorities’ claim without material evidence. This occurred after the security authorities in Kuwait found a collection of weapons from the first defendant and two weapons belonging to five other defendants, while the rest did not have any weapons. The first and second defendants had admitted since the beginning of the investigations that these weapons were collected during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and they were one of the members of the Kuwaiti resistance against the invasion, with witnesses present to prove this claim. The weapons were kept since then, but the security devices did not care, and they were accused of belonging to the Lebanese organization, Hezbollah, by virtue of being Shiite citizens. At that time, the accused were interrogated for 21 days without the presence of lawyers, neither in the state security apparatus nor in the Palace of Justice. The detainees’ families reported that they were tortured for 21 days with the most severe forms of torture, such as holding them suspended for days, electric shocks, and waterboarding. Confessions were extracted under severe torture. When they attended the Public Prosecution, the defendants denied the charges, and the prosecutor did not care about their allegations of torture, and defendants’ true and genuine statements were not recorded in the record accurately. The defendants were sentenced in the Court of First Instance, with sentences ranging from 15 years to capital punishment. After the appeal, 15 of them were acquitted due to a lack of evidence convicting them of joining the aforementioned party, and the rest were sentenced to two to five years in prison, with only one issuance of a life sentence. On 18/06/2017, the Court of Cassation sentenced the group from 10 to 15 years and life imprisonment for one of them without presenting new merits for the case.