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Journalists, activists arrested during Bidun peaceful demonstration

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 8 July 2012 - ANHRI condemns the Kuwaiti authorities' excessive use of violence while dispersing a peaceful demonstration of stateless Bidun residents during which a number of protesters, including activists and journalists, were arrested.

ANHRI said “The authorities' actions against the Bidun show the government's ongoing denial of the legitimacy of their demands and citizenship rights.”

The Bidun population has lived in Kuwait for several decades while the government refuses to recognize them as citizens and refuses to grant them the rights that come along with that designation. Their number is undetermined and they are also present in other countries of the Gulf, such as Qatar and the Emirates.

On 6 July, following the Friday prayers, a group of Bidun protesters organized a peaceful demonstration in the hall of the people's mosque in Tayma. Around 200 people assembled to demand that the government resolve the problems related to citizenship and employment faced by the population. They also claim that their children are denied education for not having birth certificates.

Several representatives of human rights organisations and some journalists were banned from joining the demonstration. Demonstrators were given a few minutes warning before the police used excessive violence to disperse the crowds, with the use of teargas, and sound and water cannons.

Several protesters were injured and arrested, including lawyer Mohamed El-Fadly who was interrogated in Tayma police station and released after several hours in detention. Fatma Al-Matter, a female activist, was also assaulted.

Following the review of several cases involving Bidun residents participating in demonstrations, the Ministry of Interior recently issued a warning against any peaceful demonstration.

ANHRI condemns the decision as “a clear violation of the freedoms of expression, speech and assembly, which are guaranteed by the international charters and treaties to which Kuwait is party.”

ANHRI calls on the Kuwaiti authorities to immediately release the detainees and guarantee their safety.

ANHRI added that “the government of Kuwait cannot force the Bidun to stop fighting for their rights and should form an ad-hoc committee to review their case and find a solution to their fate.”

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