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Kuwait Executes Seven People Including Member of Ruling Family

Human Rights Groups Oppose Capital Punishment

The government of Kuwait hanged a prince in the ruling al-Sabah family, along with six other people, in the first executions in the country since 2013. The move came weeks after Bahrain executed three people for political reasons, and raised concerns among human rights groups that there could be a new wave of executions.

“We don’t know why it happened now, but there’s a bit of conjecture the three executed earlier a few weeks ago in Bahrain for political reasons could have given a green light for these executions,” Drewery Dike, a researcher on the Gulf at Amnesty International told The Media Line. “What I can say about Kuwait is that it’s used very sparingly and they tend to only use it for super egregious, socially unacceptable cases.”

One of the seven executed this week in Kuwait, is a case that dates back to 2009. A woman, distressed that her husband was taking a second wife, set fire to the wedding celebration tent, killing 58 people, mostly women and children.

The most prominent of those killed in Kuwait was Sheikh Faisal Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who was hanged at Kuwait’s central prison. He was sentenced to death in 2010 for killing his nephew. The other three men and two women hanged came from Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia and the Philippines. All of them were convicted of offense ranging from murder and attempted murder to kidnapping and rape.

“Executing seven people in one day shows Kuwait is moving in exactly the wrong direction on the death penalty,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch told The Media Line. “The Kuwait government should be reinstating the moratorium on the death penalty instead of hanging seven people.”

The fact that one of the members of the royal family was included could be a way of trying to show that nobody is above the law, said Dike of Amnesty International. But he said the organization opposes the death penalty everywhere.

“Amnesty’s position in the death penalty is the same the world over,” he said. “Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. Amnesty International campaigns for total abolition of capital punishment.”

Most Gulf countries use the death penalty sparingly, except for Saudi Arabia. While precise figures are not available, in January, 2016, 47 people were executed in one day, and in 2015, Amnesty International said that at least 157 were killed. The death penalty is often applied for drug crimes, as well as murder. The death penalty there is based on Islamic shari’a law.

The recent executions in Bahrain made headlines because some human rights groups charged they were politically motivated. All three were Shi’ites accused of killing a Sunni police officer. Human Rights Watch said the trial was an unfair trial.

Human rights groups say they are concerned that each time the death penalty is used makes it easier for other countries to use it as well.

“The death penalty is not prohibited under international law,” Dike said. “But international human rights standards encourage states to move towards complete abolition of the death penalty and state that where it is still maintained, it may only be imposed for the most serious of crimes after proceedings which meet international fair trial guarantees, and that it may not be a mandatory penalty.”