Kuwait Police Accused of Torture

Kuwait Police Accused of Torture

    Jassim Al Qames and Bashar Al-Sayegh were arrested and tortured by the Kuwaiti secret police.  The police’s grounds for apprehending the two Kuwaitis was that someone had anonymously posted on their blog, Al Jareeda, a negative comment concerning the Emir of Kuwait, Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.  Although the bloggers quickly removed the comment within fifteen minutes, the police noticed the comment and acted upon it.  Therefore, the police apprehended Jassim Al Qames forced him to sign a document of consent, which he was prohibited from reading.  Bashar Al-Sayegh was not apprehended.

    This action by the Kuwaiti police is deeply concerning because the men running the blog were not connected to the anonymous commenter, rather they only hosted the website where this person decided to criticize the Emir.  This action by the government encroaches on the country’s journalism, since it makes journalists accountable for their readers’ reactions.  This increased burden on will make journalists and bloggers more hesitant to publish information concerning volatile issues.

    Also, two Egyptian laborers recently complained that they were tortured by the Kuwaiti police.  The men were laborers arrested for forging their work papers.  The Egyptians claim that the Kuwaiti police’s interrogation techniques included the police pouring sulfuric acid on the men’s bodies, including the genital organs.  The Egyptians’ lawyer produced a forensic report, which allegedly supports the men’s claim. 

    The local Egyptian papers have tried to appeal to the local Egyptian authorities to investigate the Kuwaiti police action.  The Egyptian newspapers have covered the story closely to create a strong public reaction through publishing photos of the men’s burns.  The probable long term purpose of the independent Egyptian media’s coverage is the hope that this review of the Kuwaiti interrogation policies may lead to reforming Egyptian police’s torture techniques, by providing a safe way to criticize police brutality.

International Herald Tribune.  Kuwait releases Egyptian who claimed police torture.  30 August 2007.
Almasry Alyoum.  Kuwaiti Police Torture Two Egyptians with Sulfuric Acid.  23 August 2007.
Kuwait Times.  Torture, a way of life?  24 August 2007.

Human Rights Watch Visits Jordanian Prisons

Members of Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently spent two weeks in Jordan, touring five prisons and interviewing their prisoners.  While the organization commended Jordan for opening its prisons, it stated that Jordan needs to address the beatings and mistreatment that are widespread among its prisons. 

On August 22, the day following HRW’s visit of Swaqa Correction and Rehabilitation Center, the security staff beat nearly all 2,100 prisoners held there.  The guards also forcibly shaved the heads and beards of all the inmates.  Most of the inmates are Muslims whose religious beliefs require them to keep a beard.  Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, commented that shavings occurred to humiliate and degrade the prisoners and served no “legitimate penal purpose”.

Following reports of the new beatings, HRW returned to Swaqa on August 26.  They spoke with over 40 inmates who reported that they heard cries of inmates being beaten for over eight hours and showed HRW bruises on their backs, arms, and legs.  The inmates believe that all the prisoners were beaten that night and one, `Ala’ Abu `Utair, died as a result from the abuse.

In response to these new beatings, 350 prisoners at Swaqa cut themselves during HRW’s second visit to the facilities.  Members of HRW report seeing prisoners with cuts on their chests, arms and legs and seeing prisoners cut themselves when the delegation was exiting the prison.  Inmates report that self-mutilation is a common reaction and, like hunger strikes, is designed to draw attention to the abuse of the inmates.

On August 27, Jordan suspended Majid al-Rawashda, the director of Swaqa.  The beatings of August 22 occurred on his first day as the director.  HRW welcomed the suspension as a “swift and necessary action”.  While al-Rawashda was implicated in the earlier abuses, Maj Bashir al-Daaja, the spokesperson for Jordanian Public Security Department, did not say whether the dismissal was connected to the incident.

In addition to the beatings at Swaqa, HRW documented abuses at each prison its delegation visited.  Other abuses include inmates being hung by their arms and beaten over the course of an entire day, an inmate losing teeth as a result of being hit by a metal pipe, and at Aqaba prison, an inmate died as a result of beatings over the course of two days.  Also, at Qafqafa prison, the unsanitary conditions seriously affected the prisoners’ mental health. 

For more information please see:
Human Rights Watch:  “Jordan:  Rampant beating in prisons go unpunished”  30 August 2007. 

BBC:  “Jordanian prison head dismissed”  29 August 2007. 

France24:  “Jordan fires warden after prison disturbances”  29 August 2007.

Middle East Times:  “Jordan inmates hurt themselves during watchdog visit”  28 August 2007.

Students Killed in Capital Bombing

Two school children and three others were killed in a bombing this past Sunday in the capital of Somalia. Nine people were also injured. Sunday is a school day for a majority in the majority of Muslim Horn of Africa nations. This region has endured significant fighting and is patrolled daily by government troops and Ethiopian allies.

Thousands have been killed this year because of the periodic gunfire and attacks of government officials and stations. Random attacks have been so frequent, that troops are more concentrated on their own safety than that of the people and city. However, in this attack no government troop was in the area. Witnesses reported that the bomb was planted near the school in south Mogadishu where hundreds of students attend.

Again, remnants of the Islamic court’s militias and those unhappy with the presence of Ethiopian troops have been blamed for the bombing. These groups have also been blamed for a grenade attack on police officers that killed one civilian and another grenade attack in the capital’s main market that killed one person and wounded five. In many attacks, civilians are the ones killed or injured. The tactics are widely viewed as “barbaric”.

For more information please see:

“5 Somalis killed in violence, nine hurt” Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070826/ap_on_re_af/somalia;_ylt=At07Xtk5twFyd3Q5smB5QCu96Q8F 26, Aug. 2007.

“Somalia: Roadside Bomb Explosion Kills 2 Students in Mogadishu” AllAfrica.com: http://allafrica.com/stories/200708260009.html 26, Aug. 2007.

“Fear Stalk Somalia’s Capital Once Again” BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6252359.stm 11, Jan. 2007.

Saudi Arabia Bans London Based Arabic Paper

Al- Hayat, a popular London based pan-Arabic paper, was recently banned by the Saudi government.  It is unclear what caused the banning of the paper, especially because officials stated it was not any single article that caused the government’s regulation.  However, two possible reasons emerge for the government’s displeasure with the newspaper causing the banning of the newspaper.  The first possibility is related to the Al-Hayat’s insinuations that the recent deaths of camels in Saudi Arabia were actually caused by infectious diseases, rather than the government’s view that blamed the mysterious deaths on the camels’ poor diet.  Secondly, the Associated Press suspects that the paper may have been banned because the newspaper recently published an article connecting a Saudi man, Mohammad al-Thibaiti, to an Iraqi extremist group, the Islamic State of Iraq.  Although Saudi Arabia’s reasons for banning the newspaper are unclear the fact that they have silenced the newspaper probably because it criticized the government is alarming.  However, the ban of Al-Hayat may be a unique situation and may not indicate a shift from Saudi Arabia’s new found openness in reporting. 

    Al-Hayat has always had a strenuous relationship with the Saudi government.  In the past the newspaper was banned by the government multiple times, and the government always allowed the paper to circulate again.  Therefore, it is likely that soon this ban will also be removed.  The newspaper has close connections to the government causing the strain.  Al-Hayat is owned by the Assistant Defense for Military Affairs for Saudi Arabia, Prince Khaled bin Sultan.  Also, he is the eldest son of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.  Since the owner, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, is so closely related to the Saudi government it is likely that his paper is more closely monitored then other news sources.  The Saudi government may have banned Al-Hayat because of Al-Hayat’s close alliance with the government, which allowed the newspaper to access and propagate information that the government deemed sensitive.  Thus, the banning of Al-Hayat is not a clear indicator of stricter rules of monitoring independent news sources from the Saudi government.

BBC News.  Saudis ‘ban’ pan-Arab newspaper.  29 August 2007.

Khaleej Times Online. Saudi bans Al Hayat newspaper for 2 days.  28 August 2007.

Arabian Business.  Leading Arab daily still banned in Saudi.  29 August 2007.

Associated Press.  Saudi Government Bans Leading Arab Paper.  28 August 2007.

Twelve more South Korean hostages freed


One of twelve hostages released

Taliban militants released twelve more South Korean hostages Wednesday and the remaining seven hostages may also be released as early as the end of this week.  Among the 12 released were two men and ten women.

On Wednesday, the Taliban released 12 of 19 South Korean hostages as part of a deal with South Korea.  The Taliban originally demanded release of imprisoned insurgents in exchange for the South Korean hostages.  They later backed down on these demands.  Under the terms of this deal, South Korea reaffirmed a pledge it made before the hostage crisis began to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.  Seoul also said it would prevent South Korean Christian missionaries from working in the Muslim country, something it had already promised to do.

The Taliban originally kidnapped 23 South Koreans and killed two male hostages in late July.  They also released two women in early August was a gesture of good will.

Both Seoul and the Taliban have said that no money was exchanged in this deal.  Furthermore, the Afghan government was not a party to the negotiations.  South Korea’s government was under intense domestic pressure to bring the hostages home safely.

As the hostage crisis comes to an end, the father of one of the two hostages killed in the crisis accused the church that sent the Christian volunteers of being reckless.  Critics also said the government would suffer diplomatic damages for negotiating directly with the extremists.

For more information, please see: