Country Listing

Kuwait Table of Contents


Human Rights Practices

Prior to the occupation of Kuwait in 1990, the principal human rights concerns, aside from widespread restriction on the exercise of political expression, were instances of arbitrary arrest and mistreatment of prisoners and lack of due process in security trials. A number of Kuwaitis were arrested between late 1989 and mid-1990 for political reasons and for participating in unlicensed gatherings. Noncitizens could be arbitrarily expelled if deemed security risks and were also subject to deportation if they were unable to find work after being released from their initial employment. Some foreigners reportedly were held in deportation centers for up to five years because they were unable to provide for their own travel out of the country. According to the Department of State, there were plausible reports of occasional torture and violence in apprehending and interrogating criminal suspects.

The seven-month Iraqi occupation subjected Kuwaitis to a systematic terror campaign that included extrajudicial killings, torture and other inhuman treatment, kidnappings, and arbitrary arrest and detention. There were many credible accounts of killings, not only of members of the Kuwaiti resistance but also of their families, other civilians, and young children. Attacks on Iraqi soldiers resulted in reprisal actions in neighborhoods where attacks had taken place and included summary and random execution of innocent civilians. Many Kuwaiti citizens also disappeared at the hands of the Iraqi occupation authorities. Large-scale executions of young men by gunfire or by hanging were reported. About 850 Kuwaitis remained unaccounted for in early 1993, many of them presumably killed while in Iraqi detention. Iraq insisted that it had no Kuwaiti prisoners.

After the restoration of the amirate government in 1991, there were many reports of beatings and torture to extract confessions from suspected collaborators. The Department of State estimated that forty-five to fifty Palestinian and other foreigners were tortured to death by police or military personnel. As many as 5,800 persons, mostly non-Kuwaitis, were detained on suspicion of collaboration during the four months of martial law that followed the country's liberation. Many arrests were arbitrary, and some detainees were held for months without being charged. As of early 1993, about 900 persons were still in detention; these included persons convicted in the State Security Court or martial law courts and those under deportation order but with no place to go. Of the prewar population of about 400,000 Palestinians resident in Kuwait, only about 30,000 remain. Most of the departures occurred during the Iraqi occupation: the remainder left because of less favorable living circumstances or Kuwaiti pressure.

Data as of January 1993