by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait — On January 25th, Kuwait carried out executions, by hanging, of seven people. These executions were the first time in four years that the state had carried out a death penalty.
The executions, which were authorized by the country’s ruler, were carried out in the central prison. Among the seven executed prisoners were citizens of Bangladesh, Philippines, Ethiopia, Kuwait and Egypt. They included a member of the royal family as well as a woman who had been convicted of killing 58 women and children after setting fire to a wedding tent. Six of the deceased had been convicted of murder. The seventh prisoner, a Bangladeshi citizen, had been convicted of rape, theft and kidnapping.
Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty, immediately responded to the executions with criticism, condemning them as “shocking and deeply regrettable.” Ms. Samah Hadid, an Amnesty International official, stated that Kuwait had “displayed a wanton disregard for the right to life” by reinstating the death penalty. She further noted that the executions “signaled a willingness to weaken human rights standards.”
The executions further garnered criticism from Human Rights Watch. Ms. Sarah Leah Whitson, the organization’s Middle East director, noted that the executions “reflect a growing trend in the region to increase the use of, or lift moratorium on, the death penalty.” By executing three people in early January, Bahrain had ended its six-year freeze on use of the death penalty. Similarly, in December 2014, Jordan had carried out its first death penalty in eight years by executing eleven people. Ms. Whitson urged the Kuwaiti government to “reinstat[e] the moratorium on the death penalty” rather than executing prisoners.
In response to international criticism, Kuwait issued a statement in which it “insist[ed] that all legal avenues had been exhausted.” In rejecting international disdain, the Gulf state indicated that the seven prisoners’ executions had been carried out in accordance with the country’s Penal Code. Mr. Ghanim Al Ghanim, Kuwait’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, stated that the prisoners had been convicted of premeditated murder, and their death sentences had been based on “indisputable evidence [that] the[y] committed the crimes as charged.” He assured that all prisoners had been given fair trials in which all due process guarantees provided by Kuwaiti law had been met.
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