Date Thu, 4 Apr 91 193125 CST Human Rights In Kuwait The following article is to appear in
Date: Thu, 4 Apr 91 19:31:25 CST
From: bertoldi@astro.Princeton.EDU (Frank Bertoldi)
Human Rights In Kuwait
The following article is to appear in our local (Princeton) bi-weekly
newsletter "The Information Gulf" (if you are interested in receiving a
sample issue, please send me your mailing address (The Information Gulf aims
to print news that you normally dont find in the mainstream media)). Feel
free to make use of it as you like.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN KUWAIT: DOUBLE STANDARDS?
by Frank Bertoldi
In Kuwait, human rights groups are currently working to document human
rights abuses by the Iraqi forces during their occupation as well as those
of the Kuwaiti forces since the US-led forces evicted Iraq from Kuwait on
So far, "no proof has emerged of allegations that thousands of Kuwaitis
were executed by the Iraqis," the Washington Post reported on April 1.
Middle East Watch, a New York-based human rights group, says evidence
suggests those deaths number 300 to 600. "Moreover, it said, a charge that
Iraqi troops killed hundreds of premature babies by stealing their
incubators - a widely circulated story repeated by President Bush - has
proven `totally false'," the Post reports. However, according to Middle East
Watch, during the Iraqi occupation thousands of people were beaten or
tortured, hundreds seriously. Whereas such reports are widely published in
the American media, human rights abuses by Kuwaiti forces since Feb. 27 have
received very little attention and are commonly portrayed as marginal,
unauthorized revenge actions by angered Kuwaitis.
Recently however, reports have emerged that point at a different reality.
An Associated Press story from March 29 cites a high-ranking diplomat who
confirmed that some members of Kuwait's ruling family were involved in the
killings of Palestinians and other Kuwaiti residents. AP further reports
that "for the first three weeks after Kuwait was liberated Feb. 27, members
of the Sabah family could be seen patrolling the streets, harassing
civilians." Seven scions of the ruling Sabah family were identified as among
the chief culprits.
Kuwaiti pro-democracy activists claim that the royal family had formed
private militia "death squads" to execute people suspected of collaborating
with the Iraqis or members of the political opposition.
According to AP, "Abdulla Hebari, a former member of Parliament and head
of the newly formed Kuwaiti Democratic Forum, has claimed that one group had
already executed 15 people. Hebari blamed the gangs in the shooting of Hamad
Juan, an opposition activist and former parliamentarian, at his front door
on Feb. 28."
Middle East Watch said on March 21 that Kuwaiti security forces and
freelance gangs are using lighted cigarettes, knives and other instruments
to torture hundreds of people.
In a telephone interview to The Information Gulf, Aziz Abu-Hamad, an
investigator for Middle East Watch who just returned from a three weeks stay
in Kuwait to document Iraqi human rights abuses during the occupation,
investigate abuses since the liberation and to asses the situation of the
Kuwaiti pro-democracy movement, detailed some of his findings. He estimates
that approximately six thousand Palestinians, Iraqis, Sudanese, North
Africans, and Kuwaiti resident aliens are currently detained without formal
charges. The internment camps are divided into two categories: approximately
six are operated directly by the Kuwaiti military (as the military hospital
and prison complex where the Kuwaiti high command is temporarily housed),
whereas another dozen camps are run, under military supervision, by former
Kuwaiti resistance fighters, vigilante gangs, fractions of the security
forces, or "private" Kuwaitis.
The military camps contain the larger number of prisoners and are
overcrowded to an extent that inmates are dying of lack of food and medical
attention. Abu-Hamad based his findings on interviews with former camp
inmates, family members of inmates who were able to visit their relatives
(only very few were allowed to), sympathetic military sources, and Red Cross
officials who were allowed to visit a camp for the first time on March 23
(two weeks after they obtained formal permission from the Kuwaiti government
to do so). According to Abu-Hamad, most almost all inmates are tortured in
some form, usually beatings, by their capturers. He estimates that at least
30 to 40 prisoners were executed and another 20-30 died in the camps due to
lack of food, water, or medical attention. According to Abu-Hamad (as quoted
by the Washington Post), some of the methods used by Kuwaitis to detain,
torture, and kill suspected collaborators have been remarkably similar to
those used by the Iraqi occupiers against Kuwaitis.
Many detainees are Palestinians, who appear to be victimized as a group
because some Palestinians helped the Iraqis after they occupied Kuwait on
Aug. 2. Before that date, about 350,000 Palestinians lived in Kuwait, often
for generations, but today, only about 150,000 remain, and even this number
rapidly decreases as many continue to flee the hostility brought towards
them. An AP report from March 27 quotes a grave digger at the Riqqa Cemetery
in Kuwait, where mass graves holding six to 10 bodies apiece have been in
use since the US-led forces evicted Iraq from Kuwait: "We buried three men
here yesterday. They were all Palestinians. Two were killed with gunshots.
One man had a severed head."
Dr. Louise Cainkar, director of the Chicago-based Palestine Human Rights
and Information Center, is currently traveling through Iraq on a
fact-finding tour. From Baghdad she reported interviews with four
Palestinian men who escaped Kuwait after being imprisoned there, saying that
they were beaten with metal rods, burned with cigarettes, and interrogated
by Kuwaiti officials during their imprisonment in Kuwait City.
In an April 2 New York Times op-ed, Andrew Whitley, executive director of
Middle East Watch, cites testimony (to his group and the International Red
Cross) by released detainees that "puts U.S. officers in places of detention
in Kuwait where torture has taken place."
Still, Kuwaiti officials continue to claim that Kuwaiti authorities are
not involved. "Interviews with more than 100 people who were detained and
released," Whitley writes, "revealed that those responsible for their
mistreatment in "safe houses," schools and police stations often wore
Kuwaiti Army uniforms. Eyewitnesses described how soldiers dropped bodies
off in Palestinian neighborhoods during the night."
Although both Abu-Hamad and Whitley report that the presence of U.S.
troops has somewhat "restrained" Kuwaiti human rights abuses, the U.S.
authorities tolerate them to some extent. On March 4, Robert Fisk writes in
the London Independent: "When three Kuwaiti soldiers began to beat up a
Palestinian boy on a bicycle in Hwali yesterday Colin Smith of the Observer
and I intervened, physically restraining the Kuwaiti troops and ordering
them to lower their weapons. Several of the Kuwaiti armoured vehicles were
flying American flags. But the Special Forces troops accompanying the
Kuwaitis did nothing to help. When I asked the American officer why he
allowed the Kuwaitis to beat civilians, he replied, `You having a nice day?
We don't want your sort around here with your dirty rumors. You have a big
mouth. This is martial law, boy. Fuck off.'"
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