Being the first country in the Gulf to adopt a Parliament and a Constitution, Kuwait was long-known for its more representative political system and respect for fundamental liberties. With the beginnings of the Arab uprisings across the region, however, demands by civil society for governmental reform, transparency and more political participation became louder. These were not met by the authorities, and, on the contrary, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have increasingly been restricted.

In recent years, new legislation has been passed or existing legal provisions amended to further curtail freedom of speech, with human rights defenders, journalists, opposition politicians and other peaceful dissidents being prosecuted for criticising the Emir or other state institutions. 

Kuwait’s judiciary is only partially independent as judges are appointed by the Emir and non-Kuwaiti judges have fixed-term renewable contracts, in direct contradiction to the principle of irremovability of judges, which is meant to ensure their independence and impartiality.

Discrimination against Kuwait’s proportionally large stateless population of about 120,000 to 200,000 individuals continues. The Bidoon community lives in marginalisation and deprived of their most basic economic and social as well as civil and political rights.

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