HRW calls on Kuwait to stop stripping citizenship

AFP , Sunday 19 Oct 2014

International advocacy group Human Rights Watch called on Kuwait on Sunday to stop targeting opponents through revoking their citizenship and to reinstate withdrawn nationalities.

Kuwait -- where citizens have elected a parliament for decades and which is traditionally seen as one of the more tolerant Gulf monarchies -- was damaging its reputation with the practice, HRW said.

"Kuwaiti authorities should immediately stop stripping nationals of their citizenship because they exercise free speech or other legitimate human rights," New York-based HRW said in a statement.

They should "reinstate the citizenship of people whose citizenship has been withdrawn on those grounds," it added.

In the past few months, Kuwait revoked the citizenship of 33 people and most of their family members.

HRW said that at least three of the cases appeared to be politically motivated.

The oil-rich Gulf state in July withdrew the citizenship of the family of Ahmad Jabr al-Shemmari and shut down his satellite television station and newspaper.

In August Kuwait revoked the citizenship of a former Islamist opposition lawmaker and his brothers and sisters, in addition to 10 activists including leading cleric Nabil al-Awadhi.

Also stripped of his nationality was Saad al-Ajmi, spokesman of the Popular Action Movement, a nationalist opposition group.

A government statement last month said some of those who lost their citizenship had been naturalised on the basis of fake documents.

Others had dual citizenship, which is outlawed in Kuwait, and some had their nationality revoked for security reasons, the statement said.

"The Kuwaiti authorities seem to think they can use the cover of the nationality law to target their critics and deter dissent," said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

"But Kuwait's real message of official intimidation has rung out loud and clear," he said.

"While Kuwait continues to strip people of citizenship for no good reason, its reputation as a tolerant country will continue to nosedive," Houry added.

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