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Authorities urged to reconsider death penalty amendment

UPDATE: Emir vetoes legislation authorising death for 'mocking religion' (Human Rights Watch, 7 June 2012)

(ANHRI/IFEX) - ANHRI is deeply concerned by news of the vote in the Kuwaiti National Assembly in favour of a legal amendment which could make insulting God and the Prophet Mohammed punishable by death.

On 12 April, the Kuwaiti National Assembly voted for the amendment with the approval of all members of the cabinet. The amendment contains two articles that specify that the death penalty should be applied to anyone who insults God, the Prophet Mohammed or his wives. This law would apply to all members of Kuwaiti society and to Muslims in particular in order to “deter any potential abuse of the Islamic religion.” Some of the members of the Assembly called on lawmakers to slow down the process of turning this bill into law, to study it carefully and to consult with the Ministries of Justice, Awqaf, and with the Sunni and Jaafari sects in order to make sure it is not challenged constitutionally.

It is important to note that there are many Kuwaiti citizens facing trial on charges of insulting the Prophet, and may be subject to execution if this is adopted into law, including the writer Mohammed al-Melify, who was sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment and a fine of 18 thousand dollars on 9 April. He was found guilty of insulting the Shia doctrine via an article published on his Twitter page. The blogger Hamad El-Naki was charged last March with insuting the Prophet and his wives through his personal account on Twitter. In his case, the court recently ruled to transfer the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony in a process that would allow for a potentially worse sentence.

The Assembly have yet to agree on how the death penalty would be applied, or on the fate of non-Muslims related to this law, as about half a million non-Muslim currently live and work in Kuwait.

“This law brings freedom of opinion and expression a hundred steps back in Kuwait, as it will restrict freedom of expression significantly and will make all residents face a potential death sentence based on their opinions and what they write. Moreover, the law can be used by the authorities to get rid of opponents by a possible vague expansion of the terms of the bill,” stated ANHRI.

”At a time when most of the world is seeking to abolish the death penalty because it poses a serious assault on the right to life, Kuwait develops new articles in their law to apply the death penalty to publishing offenses. The authorities are urged to reconsider what they define as a danger to public order, and the importance of rights and freedoms in the country,” added ANHRI.

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