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Kuwaitis 'still committing rights abuses'

THREE years after the end of the Iraqi occupation, serious human rights violations continue to be committed in Kuwait, according to Amnesty International.

In a report published today Amnesty, the human rights organisation based in London, states that more than 120 people suspected of collaboration with the Iraqi occupation forces are believed to be serving prison terms. About 19 are under sentence of death and one person has been executed after what it called 'grossly unfair trials'.

After the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait on 26 February 1991, the Emir declared martial law, which lasted until June of that year. A special martial law court was established to try cases of suspected collaboration. After the abolition of martial law, the court was replaced by the State Security Court.

Amnesty International believes that more than 450 defendants not tried by the martial law court before it was dissolved were transferred to the State Security Court. Amnesty notes that although there were several small changes of procedure, the State Security Court has continued to deny defendants the right to a fair trial.

Amnesty further claims that the independence of judges is not adequately guaranteed and those convicted are denied the right of appeal. The September 1991 amendment to the State Security Law granted defendants only a limited right to review of legal errors. By 31 January 1994 at least 95 had been reported convicted.

Many of the cases referred to by Amnesty, in which it says there was evidence of the use of torture to extract confessions, relate to the period of the martial law courts, in the immediate aftermath of the liberation.

Amnesty declared that 'it is unfortunate that the Kuwaiti government has not seen fit to apply to the conduct of its own law courts and enforcement officials those international standards which it justifiably called for during the occupation of the country'.

The human rights organisation said: 'All of Amnesty International's concern about the unfairness of the trials in these courts and the continued detention of those acquitted have been repeatedly raised with the authorities. Amnesty Inter national regrets that the gov ernment of Kuwait has not seen fit to take any serious action on any of the concerns raised with it over the past three years. The replies from the authorities have failed to address most of Amnesty International's concerns or to supply information that was requested.'

The Kuwaiti information minister, Sheikh Saud Nasser al-Sabah, who is on a visit to London, acknowledged before publication of the Amnesty report that excesses had been committed in the early days after the liberation of Kuwait. He compared this to the period in France immediately after the Second World War.

He said earlier this week: 'I am not here to deny the negative things that did take place after the liberation.' He said judges 'have full independence' and stressed the 'right of individuals to a free and equitable trial. I am not denying there are violations. That is the nature of life. But the due processes of law are followed.'