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Government Denies Allegations of Palestinian Mistreatment

March 27, 1991

KUWAIT CITY (AP) _ Kuwait’s government on Wednesday denied allegations by a human rights group that Kuwaiti security forces and gangs are torturing and possibly killing Palestinians.

However, gravediggers, doctors and Palestinians claimed that mysterious gangs of Kuwaitis were continuing to beat and kill Palestinians and other non- Kuwaitis.

″We buried three men here yesterday,″ a gravedigger said at the Riqqa Cemetery, where mass graves holding six to 10 people have been filled with unidentified bodies since liberation. ″They were all Palestinians. Two were killed with gunshots. One man had a severed head.″

A gravedigger at the Sulaibikhat Cemetery said 30 unidentified bodies, mostly non-Kuwaitis, have been buried in the cemetery since the emirate was freed by allied forces on Feb. 27. He said at least 20 appeared to have died violent deaths, citing wounds and bullet holes on the corpses.

Acting Minister of Information Bader Jassim al-Yaqoub denied the accounts of killings by the New York-based rights group Middle East Watch.

″We are fully aware that such lies are being spread as part of a continuous campaign against Kuwait since the Iraqi invasion,″ he said.

However, Yaqoub said in a statement that ″the government of Kuwait is ready to investigate all claims concerning the alleged illegal conduct of any Kuwaiti.″

Middle East Watch claimed last Thursday that Kuwaiti security forces and freelance gangs are using lighted cigarettes, knives and other instruments to torture hundreds of people suspected of collaborating with Iraqi troops.

About 2,000 people are being held, and ″possibly the majority″ have been abused, said Andrew Whitley, executive director of the group.

Many detainees are Palestinians, who claim they are being victimized as a group because some Palestinians assisted the Iraqis during the occupation.

The U.S. Army has pressured the Kuwaiti government to investigate the alleged rights abuses. Army civil affairs officers, who are training Kuwaiti police, say they are dismayed at the time it is taking police to resume control over the city.

On Tuesday, police were supposed to have taken control of the city from the Kuwaiti military but that process has yet to be completed.

Yaqoub denied Middle East Watch allegations that Kuwait security forces were illegally holding captives, saying: ″Kuwait assures the international public, leaders, government and organizations that it will keep faith with all impartial justice.″

In interviews this past week, numerous Palestinians say the mistreatment they allegedly suffered soon after Kuwait’s liberation continues.

Palestinians in two neighborhoods of Kuwait City and Ahmadi, an oil town just south of the capital, say Kuwaiti authorities are not giving them as much food or water as they give Kuwaiti passport-holders.

About 350,000 Palestinians lived in Kuwait before the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion. About 170,000 remain.

Palestinians and other non-Kuwaitis are flooding newly opened private markets, an indication that they might be facing food shortages.

″This is all we have to eat now,″ said Raida Ahmed, a 38-year-old Palestinian mother of three, opening a plastic bag containing a small number of potatoes, turnips, pumpkin squash and one head of cabbage.

Doctors at three Kuwaiti hospitals have said that about 45 bodies of non- Kuwaitis, mostly Palestinians, have been dumped at their facilities since the war ended. All of the deceased died violent deaths, they said.

One Palestinian, a 31-year-old man who would identify himself only as Mohammed, said a gang of armed Kuwaiti men took him from his home two days after Kuwait was liberated and kept him in several houses for eight days.

He said they beat him on the head and back with a rifle butt, put a knife to his genitals, applied electric shocks to his hands and feet and kept him blindfolded for days.

″Whatever you can imagine, they did to me,″ Mohammed said. He still wears a neck brace and said he is taking medicine to relieve his pain.

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