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Kuwaitis protesting election law changes silenced by force

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 16 October 2012 - ANHRI denounces the Kuwaiti forces' assault on demonstrators at an anti-government protest on 15 October, staged against possible changes to the election law. Some protesters were arrested and others injured.

The majority of former members of the dissolved National Assembly, as well as political activists and youth movements, organized a seminar near the National Assembly despite a request by the Emir of Kuwait to halt sit-ins and gatherings until a summit for Asian leaders hosted by Kuwait comes to an end. The protesters went ahead with the demonstration after news spread that the authorities' intentions regarding changing the parliamentary election law were an attempt to prevent a rising representation of the opposition Islamic movement in parliament.

Once the seminar ended, a group of protesters marched over to the National Assembly re-asserting their request for the current law to remain unchanged so as not to favour candidates close to the government. Police forces responded to the peaceful march with force, using batons to drive the demonstrators away. Several of the protesters were injured; four people were arrested for the alleged assault of 25 police offers.

In one particular case, a man headed to the police station to file a report against a certain officer who caused injuries to his head with a baton. Instead of being received as a complainant, accusations were aimed at him.

In a related context, the state's security forces filed reports to the prosecutor general of Kuwait against two speakers at two organized sit-ins in Jaber Al-Ali and Jahra. Salem Namlan and Mohamed Khalifa are both former members of the National Assembly. The reports included a transcript of both seminars as well as two CDs containing recordings of them. The State Security's General Administration called for charges to be laid against them for attacking the constitution, attempting to undermine the regime and the prince's jurisdiction, and inciting an assault on the security forces.

"The rise in Kuwaiti forces' use of violence to deal with people expressing their opinions through peaceful demonstrations is evidence of the authorities' complete disregard of protesters' demands, as well as their attempts to silence opposing voices," said ANHRI.

The organization added that, "the persistence of the Kuwaiti authorities to use violent policies and security solutions proved its failure in responding to the Arab spring and the challenges that came with it."

ANHRI calls on the Kuwaiti authorities to immediately release all the detainees, guarantee their safety, and respect citizens' right to peacefully demonstrate.

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