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19 July 2000

Human Rights Committee
69th Session
19 July 2000

The Human Rights Committee this morning continued its consideration of an initial report of Kuwait with the Kuwaiti delegation saying that the Government had taken serious measures to prevent abuse of power by the police.
The delegation said that last year, 63 cases had been brought to the attention of the authorities which included drunk police in public places and ill-treatment of prisoners. Disciplinary measures were taken against those guilty of committing abuses and victims had been awarded compensation.
Over the course of their consideration of the report, many Committee experts commented on gender inequality in the country. Kuwait was requested to lift its reservation on article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which concerns the rights of citizens to participate in the political affairs of a country.
The Kuwaiti delegation will return this afternoon to hear the Committee's preliminary observations and recommendations on the report. The final, written conclusions and recommendations will be issued towards the end of the session on 28 July.
Kuwait is among the 145 States parties to the Covenant, and as such it must submit periodic summaries on the measures undertaken to comply with the terms of the treaty.
When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m., it will conclude its consideration of the report of Kuwait before holding a private meeting to consider its draft concluding observations on the reports which it has already considered during the current session.
At the beginning of the meeting, several Committee experts raised a series of questions. An expert remarked that the absence of political parties in Kuwait did not allow the possibility of a democratic change in the country.
Another expert expressed concern about the fate of persons judged by martial courts after the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion. The expert invoked the case of one person who was sentenced to death by a martial court and whose sentence had been reduced later to six months of imprisonment by an ordinary court. The expert said such a difference prompted doubt on the administration of justice after the liberation.
Also, another expert asked how the Constitutional Court was made up; the law that created it; and how the members were appointed. With regard to the period of police detention of four days before an authorization for further detention was obtained from the competent judicial authority, the expert asked if it was before the same investigating judge that the person was presented for his case to be examined.
What measures had been taken to reconcile the substances of the Covenant and the Cairo Declaration on Islam, which Kuwait had ratified, an expert asked. According to the delegation, 99 per cent of Kuwaitis were Muslim; but what was the religious structure of the residents as a whole? Turning to citizenship, the expert said it was selective and no definition was provided in the Constitution on citizenship. Among the citizens, women were prevented from exercising their right to vote, which was in contradiction to the principle of Kuwaiti sovereignty and democracy. He noted that the delegation had said that the system of the government in Kuwait was democratic, under which sovereignty resided in the people, the source of all powers.
An expert asked if the parliamentarian human rights committee visited prisons and made reports to parliament, and if there were cases in which they were prevented from carrying out their actions. On the appointment of judges, the expert said that although they were appointed for life, some non-Kuwaiti Muslim judges were also appointed on a contractual basis. Who appointed those judges? Not a single woman had been appointed as a judge; women were precluded de jure from becoming judges; what was the reason for that?
It was an absolute tragedy that people disappeared in Kuwait after being arrested or detained, an expert commented. The fate of 62 persons of diverse nationalities and professions had not yet been established by the Government of Kuwait. The victims included Palestinians with Jordanian nationality, Egyptians and Kurds. The cases of forced disappearances were a violation of rights recognized in various international instruments, particularly the right to life. Alluding to the situation of women in Kuwait, the expert concluded by saying that there was no genuine democracy while 51 per cent of a population was left aside.
An expert said that the Constitution provided that the independence of the judiciary was secured by law; but which law guaranteed such independence? The security of tenure and the remuneration of judges were not secured by the Constitution. The result was that the security of tenure and the fixity of salary depended upon the will of the majority of the legislators. The judges depended upon the good will of the legislators. How could one expect the judges to be independent and impartial? Had the Constitution Court being set up? And if so what was its composition? What was the appointing authority? Had it taken any decisions on Constitutional cases so far?
In response to the questions raised by the Committee experts, the Kuwaiti officials said the problem of drugs in the Kuwaiti society had prompted the Government to categorize drug smuggling among the crimes which could be punished by capital punishment. Among the 28 persons on death row in Kuwait at present, 14 had received the death penalty for crimes of drug smuggling.
With regards to minorities, 99 per cent of Kuwaitis were Muslim while one per cent were Christians, the delegation said. The Christians, who were Kuwaitis, practised their religion in the six churches in the country. Foreigner workers were also allowed to exercise their respective beliefs in public.
The electoral law allowed for persons already registered to bring cases to the Constitutional Court, the delegation said. The law had set a time limit for the appellant to bring the case; if the formality was not fulfilled, the court could dismiss the case, and that was what had happened to the complaints lodged by women.
Opinions express in newspapers should be constructive, scientifically presented, and without any contempt, the delegation said. The freedom of expression was not restricted by the authorities; however, cases of defamation could lead to court proceedings.
As regards the appointment of judges, the Government had been accepting the appointment of judges from friendly countries like Egypt on a contractual basis depending upon the need of their services, the delegation said. Those foreign judges were appointed for a limited period of time; and Kuwaiti judges were not removed from office once they were appointed.
The law of 1973 had established the Constitutional Court. The members were elected by the Supreme Court judges by secret ballot, the delegation said.
Since the Kuwaiti Constitution was put in place, martial law had been declared only twice: in 1967 during the Arab-Israeli war and after the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion. In the latter case, martial law remained enforced for three months. During that period, the basic human rights laws and fundamental rights of citizens were safeguarded.
Abortion could only be practised by medical practitioners in good faith and with the intention to save the life of the mother, the delegation said; the law prohibited abortion and considered it a crime.
The Kuwaiti authorities were serious in applying measures against abuse of power by the police, the delegation said. Last year, 63 cases had been brought to the attention of the authorities which included drunk police in public places and ill-treatment of prisoners. Disciplinary measures were taken against those guilty of committing abuses and victims had been awarded compensation.
Concerning cases which involved crimes of collaboration with the invading power, Iraq, during the invasion, counsels had been appointed by the Government for those who were not unable to pay court expenses, the delegation said. Among 40 such collaborators, 18 were illegal residents while the rest were nationals of different Arab countries. The verdicts handed down by the martial courts had to be ratified by the governor of the martial law.
Bedoons in Kuwait were illegal residents who destroyed their identity cards and who came to the country to benefit from the privileges of the Kuwaiti social and welfare system, the delegation said. They hid their real origin and nationality and considered themselves to be stateless. While the Bedoon were illegal residents, Bedouin were Kuwaitis who led nomadic lives. After the Iraqi invasion, the number of Bedoons had been dramatically increased from 9,680 in the 1960s to 200,000. Concerning those Bedoons who had left the country during the invasion and wanted to return, they had been asked to prove their presence in Kuwait in order to be allowed to return.

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