Rights group to Kuwait: End protest ban

Nov. 12, 2012 at 7:40 AM
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KUWAIT CITY, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Kuwaiti leaders should rescind a ministerial order banning demonstrations because the order denies the right to peaceable assembly, Human Rights Watch said.

"The right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in the constitution Kuwaitis will be celebrating," Joe Stork, HRW deputy Middle East director, said Monday in a release. "Authorities should lift the ban and permit people to express their views."

Opposition groups, including Islamists, liberals and nationalists, have called for a protest at the National Assembly building in Kuwait City Tuesday, which marks the 50th anniversary of the country's constitution.

Since Oct. 15, security forces have used teargas and stun grenades to disperse at least three large rallies held to protest an attempt by the country's ruler to amend Kuwait's electoral law, which may reduce opposition representation in parliament.

The Interior Ministry has justified its reaction by saying protesters were violent, "threw stones at police" and blocked traffic, HRW said.

However, Kuwaiti human rights activists and videos examined by HRW indicated demonstrations have been peaceful for the most part and the instances of violence don't justify the dramatic step of prohibiting all demonstrations, the human rights group said.

Restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly must be balanced, HRW said.

"The government has an obligation to respect the right to gather peacefully regardless of whether demonstrators support or oppose its policies," Stork said. "If force is required to quell violence by protesters it should be the absolute minimum necessary to protect lives and property."

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