DNA tests pending

Muna Al Fuzai
Muna Al Fuzai

Last week, HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah directed HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah to reconsider the DNA law in accordance with constitutional principles to protect civil rights to privacy, uphold the public interest and the security of the society and realize the goals behind this law.

The announcement of this law had created controversy between supporters of this decision for security reasons, and opponents from Kuwait and overseas like human rights organizations that see such an act as a violation of individual rights. Moreover, those who refuse to undergo DNA tests will be subjected to the punishment of imprisonment and a fine, and this is why some see this law as a violation of the principles of human rights.

The National Assembly had approved the DNA law, which required all Kuwaitis, expats and visitors to undergo DNA testing, the results of which will be stored in a database at the Ministry of Interior. The law was approved in response to security challenges facing the country, linked to the complex regional situation in July 2015 and less than a week after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a mosque in Kuwait City, leaving 26 dead and more than 200 injured. The primary goal that was declared was about the security aspect, namely to collect forensic evidence in the event of a crime or an act of sabotage.

Under the law, the interior ministry will create a database of all residents of the country, totaling 1.3 million citizens and 2.9 million foreign residents. The constitutional court later decided to accept appeals against the law. The interior ministry is now working on a new draft bill amending the DNA law 78/2015, responding to the directives of HH the Amir. The law has not been put into effect yet. But the interior ministry has already begun preparing the technical requirements for the law, a process that will last two years.

With the DNA database, the government will be able to map the genes of the population down the generations. This law could support the authorities to resolve part of the bedoon issue, especially those who demand Kuwaiti citizenship, because it may show that they have no roots in this land or with its people. But some are now raising doubts if citizenship is all about being here first or not. I think it is. But I have reservations about such a law and believe that it should only be implemented on suspects. I also wonder about those who got citizenship by forgery, and have died and passed the nationality to their sons.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights last month called to amend the law to collect DNA samples only to conduct specific investigations with a court order. Let’s consider the worst case scenario – what if this database is stolen by a subversive group? This would mean all genetic information would be transmitted outside Kuwait. This is why I agree that reconsidering this law is essential. It is well known that international laws and courts have prevented similar attempts to collect and store the genetic information of innocent people, while the collection of genetic information for criminal purposes internationally is subject to very strict terms and conditions and is handled with maximum transparency.

Human rights activists had repeatedly called for suspending this law in Kuwait for reconsideration. Their call has now been answered by HH the Amir. Thank you!

By Muna Al-Fuzai
[email protected]

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