Labour MEPs: EU must act against all human rights abuses all the time, like Kuwait’s jailing of Marsha Lazareva, and not just cases that are headline news

The EU and other world powers must use their leverage on trade deals and military cooperation to promote freedom and protest human rights breaches in all countries all the time, and not just when a case is headline news, like the recent case of Saudi Arabia and Jamal Khashoggi, Labour MEPs have said.

One such case that has had scant attention is that of Marsha Lazareva, Kuwait’s top woman CEO, who was jailed earlier this year, sentenced to ten years for corruption following a trial in which the prosecution did not give her defence team full disclosure of incriminating documents and other evidence, documents campaigners claim are probably forged anyway – documents her defence team have been denied the opportunity to examine and submit to a forensic accountant.

The conditions for non-nationals are described as “truly shocking” by those with experience of the jail system in Kuwait. Accounts tell of seven women to a cell, clothes and food limited intentionally by prison officials who distribute to Kuwaiti national first, and non-nationals second, discriminating on grounds of nationality and religion. Food is eaten on the floor and air-conditioning is non-existent even as temperatures soar.

According to Human Rights Watch, foreign women who go to work in Kuwait are particularly vulnerable to false accusations of theft, summary dismissal by employers, assault and even rape. Many women then face imprisonment and expulsion.

David Martin MEP, member of the European Parliament international trade and human rights committees, said:

“The EU, the UK government, the world must take a tougher stance with Kuwait over its consistent and disgraceful disregard for human rights – we must act against all such abuses all across the globe all the time, and not just when a case is headline news.

“Trade deals. Military cooperation. State visits. Business as usual cannot continue. We can’t just look the other way when people are ill-treated, and as well as quite rightly threatening action against Saudi Arabia over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the EU and High Representative Frederica Mogherini in particular must contact the Kuwaiti government and demand change or face real consequences.

“Trade and Human rights are linked and countries like Kuwait need to understand that things cannot stay the same without there being potential consequences.”

A planned visit by Kuwaiti Officials to the European Commission in Brussels was recently cancelled at late notice but is expected to be re-scheduled soon.

David Martin MEP added:

“The meeting, when it happens, is an opportunity for Ms Mogherini to speak frankly, an opportunity she must take – the degradation of women’s rights, particularly of foreign domestic workers, by the Kuwaiti government, cannot go unchallenged.

“As Lord Carlile, who has visited Marsha Lazerava in prison and attended court with her legal team, wrote this week, the trial was a ‘shocking example of miscarriage of justice’, with counsel denied access to evidence, and the authorities denying the defence the opportunity to re-examine key documents.

“Marsha Lazareva, whose treatment is the definition of unjust, must be released now.”

Friday, October 26, 2018

Notes to Editors:

Lord Carlile’s article: