Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1992

Kuwait's rulers (amirs), drawn from the Al-Sabah family, have governed the country
in consultation with prominent conmiercial families and other community leaders
for over 200 years. TTie 1962 Constitution provides for an elected National Assembly
and details the powers of the Government and the rights of citizens. However,
although the Constitution only permits the Amir to suspend its articles during
a period of martial law, the Amir has on several occasions suspended constitutional
provisions by decree and ruled extraconstitutionally. The Anair dissolved the National
Assembly from 1976 to 1981 and again from 1986 to 1992. The holding of National
Assembly elections in October 1992 and the subsequent convening of the National
Assembly marked a return to parliamentary life.
The Ministry of Interior supervises the country's security apparatus, including the
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Kuwait State Security (KSS), which
investigates internal security related offenses. Kuwaiti security forces continued to
commit some human rights abuses, particularly in dealing with Iraqis, Yemenis,
Jordanians, Palestinians, and Sudanese.
Before the 1990 Iraqi invasion, which devastated the economy, Kuwait enjoyed a
high standard of living, with an estimated per capita income of $10,175 in 1990. Endowed
with rich oil resources, the economy has made extraordinary progress in recovering
from the destruction wrought by the Iraqi occupation. However, it is likely
to be at least 2 to 3 years before Kuwait is able to stabilize its fiscal situation. Despite
the emphasis the Government places on an open market economy, foreign nationals
are not permitted to own property or majority shares in significant local
businesses and are subject to restrictive labor laws.
Kuwait's human rights situation showed measurable progress in 1992; parliamentary
elections were held in a free and open atmosphere, prepublication censorship
was eliminated and the Government showed a willingness to cooperate with the Na1036
tional Assembly, for example by permitting ministers to submit to Assembly auestioning.
Nevertheless, significant problems remained. Principal concerns were limitations
on the right of citizens to change their government, arbitrary arrest, and
continuing limitations on the freedoms oT assembly and association and on women's
rights. There were also reports of abuse of detainees, as well as continuing pressures
against, and harassment and mistreatment of, foreign nationals. Some restrictions
remain on freedom of speech and press.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing.
^There was one instance of apparent
extrajudicial killing in 1992. A Sri Lankan national died in police custody. The precise
cause of death was not established, but forensic examination revealed that the
victim had been phvsically abused. Three police officers subsequently were charged
with beating him. The Government stated that it was continuing to investigate the
many extrajudicial killings that occurred during the chaotic period after Kuwait's
liberation in 1991.
In one case a Kuwaiti officer was convicted of killing a bidoon (stateless resident
of Kuwait of Bedouin origin) whom he had stopped at a checkpoint in March 1991.
Most of the killings and disappearances, however, remain unresolved.
      b. Disappearance.
^There were no reported cases of permanent disappearance
during 1992, but there were several reports of foreigners (particularly Iraqis, Yemenis,
Jordanians, Palestinians, and Sudanese) being taken from their homes by unidentified
Kuwaitis, held for a few hours, and then released as a tactic of harassment.
According to Kuwait's latest figures, provided to the International Committee
of the Red Cross and Iraq, 850 Kuwaitis and residents of Kuwait were taken prisoner
by Iraqi authorities during the occupation and are still missing or detained in
Iraq. Approximately 10 percent of the missing are women. The Govenmient of Iraq
has failed to respond to U.N. and other international calls for the detainees' release
under U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, denying that it holds Kuwaiti detainees
and refusing to account for missing Kuwaitis taken into Iraqi custody during
the occupation.
There were numerous reports of disappearances following Kuwait's liberation in
1991 as elements of the military and vigilante groups sought retribution against
persons, particularly foreigners, whom they suspected of being pro-Iraqi. While
there is no reliable estimate of the total number of disappearances, over 100 cases
remained unresolved in 1992. The Government of Kuwait says it is continuing to
investigate the remaining cases of disappearances from 1991.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The Kuwaiti Constitution specifically prohibits the use of torture, but some cases
of serious abuse or torture continued to be reported in 1992. In January a Sudanese
detainee was tortured, taken to the deportation center, then to a hospital. After the
incident was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister's office, the Kuwaiti
Government arrested the officials responsible and paid restitution to the victim. At
year's end, the case is still under investigation but does not appear to be progressing.
There were credible reports of abuse in Kuwaiti detention facilities, especially at
the KSS facility. Reportea abuses included blindfolding detainees, verbal abuse, and
some physical abuse. In some cases detainees were slapped, kicked, or shoved into
walls. The ICRC has access to all places of detention in Kuwait. The Government
has responded to specific allegations of abuse by investigating them and punishing
at least some of the offenders. However, it has not been willing to provide details
concerning the types of abuse and the punishment meted out.
Evidence of mistreatment during interrogation can be submitted to Kuwaiti
courts, and confessions or other evidence obtained through torture are not admissible.
However, a number of sentences handed down by the 1991 Martial Law courts
were based on confessions apparently obtained under torture. In the State Security
Court trials, defense lawyers have, in at least one case, sought exclusion of confession
on the basis of torture.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Arbitrary arrest and detention are prohibited
by the Constitution, but this prohibition is not always honored in practice.
There are two different standards in the Kuwaiti Penal Code: one for criminal cases
and one for cases involving state security. In all cases, a detainee may not be held
for more than 4 days without charge, but in practice that requirement has occasionally
been ignored in cases involving the KSS. Thereafter, in cases not involving the
KSS, the suspect must either be released or charged by a prosecutor, who may authorize
detention for an additional 21 days. Further detention pending trial may be
authorized by a judge. Detention rules are different for cases involving state security.
In July 1991, tne Government amended the State Security Law to limit to 6
months the period of detention that may be authorized by a prosecutor. A judge may
authorize longer detentions pending trial. After 21 days in detention, a defendant
may appeal the detention order to the State Security Court. If the appeal is rejected,
the defendant may appeal again 30 days after the rejection. The Government, especially
the KSS, wiU occasionally prevent families from visiting detainees during the
first 4 days, while they are being interrogated. Afl«r that families are allowed to
visit the detainees. There does not appear to be any long term incommunicado detention.
There were continuing reports of arbitrary arrests, especially of persons picked up
at police checkpoints around Kuwait City. Foreign nationals from Yemen, Sudan,
Jordan, and Iraq as well as Palestinians were especially subject to harassment and
arrest at these checkpoints, as were people without valid iCuwaiti residency visas.
In September there were credible reports that foreign nationals employed in the
Sublic sector who had worked during the occupation, in violation of a boycott orered
by the Kuwaiti govemment-in-exile, were subject to arrest, interrogation, and
possible deportation, mdividuals detained by the police and the KSS were held for
3 to 4 days, then released, charged, or deported. Families were able to visit detainees
in the deportation center, police stations, or prisons. However, families were
rarely able to visit people being interrogated in the KSS facility. The ICRC had access
to places of detention in Kuwait for non-Kuwaiti civiUans detained in connection
witn the Gulf War. Approximately 900 persons remained in detention as of October,
including those who had been convicted in either the State Security or the
Martial Law courts. As of October, almost 500 of these persons were detained under
administrative deportation orders, which may be issued arbitrarily and which provide
no judicial recourse. Some of these persons, especially Iraqis or bidoon, were
long-term detainees.
Under Kuwaiti law, no Kuwaiti may be exiled. Noncitizens, even long-term residents,
may be expelled without charge or judicial recourse if deemed "troublemakers"
or "security risks." In addition, foreign nationals may be expelled if they
are unable to obtain work or residency permits. During 1992, the Kuwaitis deoorted
approximately 1,250 detainees and approximately 2,000 family members of Palestinians,
Yemenis, Sudanese, Jordanians and Iraqis. The ICRC only monitors deportations
of protected persons, but the Government also deports Iranians and other nationalities,
including Americans and other Westerners, for violating residency requirements
or other offenses.
A much larger number of long-term foreign workers, particularly Palestinians,
chose to leave Kuwait due to less favorable economic, residence, and social conditions.
Government policies pressured Palestinians and nationals from Iraq, Yemen,
Sudan, and Jordan to leave and made it difficult for foreigners in general to sponsor
their family members' entiy into the country. The Government's actions reflected a
deliberate policy aimed at changing Kuwait's demographic balance to reduce reliance
on foreign workers. The Palestinian population in Kuwait dropped to approximately
27,000 from a postwar figure of 120,000 to 150,000.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Kuwait's judicial system comprises the regular
courts, the State Security Court, the Court of Cassation, and the military courts,
which have jurisdiction only over offenses committed by members of the armed or
security forces, except during periods of martial law.
Kuwait's judicial system, while nominally independent, is subject to executive
branch control over its administrative and financial matters. In most recent cases
the courts have provided for fair public trials and the right of appeal. Judges in the
regular courts are appointed by the Amir on the recommendation of the Justice Ministry.
Kuwaiti nationals who serve as judges usually receive lifetime appointments,
while many non-Kuwaiti judges serve renewable 1 to 3-year contracts. The Justice
Ministry may also remove judges for cause, but this authority is rarely exercised.
By law, all defendants in felony cases must be represented by attorneys, courtappointed
if necessary. In misdemeanor cases, defined as crimes punishable by less
than 3 years' imprisonment, legal counsel is optional, at the discretion of the defendant,
and the court is not reouired to appoint a defense attorney if the accused cannot
afford to pay for one. Defendants tried in absentia have the right to appeal.
In July 1991, the Government amended the State Security Law to provide for a
limited appeals process in cases prosecuted under that law. Under tne new law,
both defendants and prosecutors may appeal verdicts of the State Security Court to
the Court of Cassation. TTie Court of Cassation may conduct a formal review of
cases to determine whether the rule of law was properly applied in each sentence.
A number of state security cases were appealed to tne Court of Cassation in 1992,
but, as of October, the court had not rendered any final verdicts.
In 1991 the Government prosecuted 74 cases, involving 164 defendants, in martial
law courts. These trials did not generally meet international standards of due process,
although the Government has resisted international appeals for retrials. Cases
which were not completed before the end of martial law were held for the State Security
Courts which resumed hearing cases in Aoril 1992. Two state security court
circuits, each consisting of a 3-judge panel, heara approximately 60 cases involving
124 people. Forty-nine of these cases were referrals from the earlier Martial Law
courts, and the rest were cases develojied after the end of martial law. A succession
of state security trials continued throughout 1992. These trials were observed by the
Kuwaiti press, international human rights organizations, and foreign missions, and
most observers commented favorably about the procedural standards applied. Defense
counsel were given access to the evidence against their clients. In some instances,
iudges dismissed cases summarily due to lack of evidence. In cases in which
verdicts nave been pronounced, some defendants have been found not guilty but in
most cases the courts have found the defendants guilty and pronounced sentence-jgenerally
imprisonment followed by deportation. Under the Constitution, the Amir
has the power to pardon and commute all sentences.
Kuwait holds no Kuwaiti political prisoners, but there are approximately 210 Palestinian-
Gazan, Iraqi, and bidoon prisoners held in longterm administrative detention
in deportation centers. Cases against them are not apparently strong enou^
to take to trial, but the Government is unwilling to free them. The Government will
not deport them to Iraq against their will; the prisoners have nowhere else to go.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
right to individual privacy and sanctity of the home is provided for in the Constitution,
but this right was ignored by the authorities in some cases in 1992. Search
warrants issued by the court or the prosecutor are required under Kuwaiti law unless
the pohce are in hot pursuit of a suspect fleeing the scene of a crime or there
is an indication of the presence of alcohol or narcotics on the premises. Search warrants
to enter public premises are issued by the prosecutor. During 1992 Kuwaiti
police frequently manned checkpoints on major roads to search for weapons, infiltrators,
or people without legal residence permits. The number of checkpoints varied
depending on the Government's concerns about internal security.
Although individuals technically could refuse to have their vehicles searched, in
practice police at these checkpoints felt at liberty to search vehicles. There were numerous
reports of foreign nationals (especially Palestinians, Jordanians, Iraqis,
Yemenis, and Sudanese as well as bidoon) being harassed or arrested at checkpoints.
Foreigners without residence permits were also subject to arrest and detention.
In 1986 the Government restricted the right of Kuwaiti males to marry foreigners,
decreeing that advance official approval would be required. Government oflicials indicated
mat the action was motivated by concern about meeting the State's responsibilities
toward the children of non-Kuwaiti spouses residing outside the country.
The Government and the public at large were also concerned about the CTOwing
number of Kuwaiti males marrying foreigners rather than Kuwaiti women. Kuwaiti
women were publicly advised against marrying foreign nationals. The Government
has only sporadically enforced the law.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Laws exist which permit the Government to restrict
speech and press freedoms, and the press laws were applied on a few occasions
in 1992. Nonetheless, Kuwaitis freely and openly discussed issues and offered
their opinions in public and private without fear of official retaliation. Opposition
viewpoints were freely discussed in public and in private meetings, although public
meetings were subject to surveillance by Interior Ministry personnel. No one was
allowed to publicly criticize the Amir, the ruling family, or Islam.
On January 12, the Government rescinded the 1986 decrees which provided for
prepublication censorship. The Kuwaiti Journalists' Association concurrently drafted
ana implemented a Code of Journalists' Ethics.
The press law restricts the press from publishing materials that contain direct
criticisms of the Amir, that involve official confidential communications or treaties
and agreements with other states, or that "might incite people to commit crimes,
create hatred, or spread dissension among the people. With the end of
prepublication censorsnip, the Kuwaiti press was required to exercise its own judgment
about what to print under the press law, subject to potential government legal
The Government occasionally used the threat of legal action to control and punish
the press during 1992. Twice during the year, the Government detained the editor
of an independent newspaper for questioning about the articles in his newspaper.
In the first instance, he and a journalist were questioned and charged with revealing
classified information about promotions in the Kuwaiti military. In a second
case he was charged as an accessory and a journalist was chained with "abuse, slander,
defamation, and infringement of the dignity" of the former Minister of Information
for a series of eight articles on the Government's media policy that contained
sharp personal criticisms of the former minister. The former mimster also filed a
civil libel suit against the editor. In another case the Government deported a non-
Kuwaiti news correspondent for filing a report that was deemed to nave insulted
the Amir.
Some Kuwaiti reporters complained that the repeal of the 1986 decrees led to a
greater degree of self-censorship, because their editors feared legal reprisals from
the Government. However, the ^sa was free to discuss a wide varietv of social,
economic, and political issues. The Kuwaiti press extensively covered the 1992
Chamber of Commerce elections and the election campaign for the National Assembly.
The press was free to criticize government policies and officials as long as the
criticism was not of a personal nature. However, the press did launch several strident
attacks against senior Kuwaiti officials, including the Prime Minister. Foreign
press reporting from Kuwait is uncensored, and foreign journalists have generally
open access to the country. Newspapers must have a license from the Mmistry of
Information. By law, publishers lose this license if their publications do not appear
for 6 months.
Radio and television are Government owned and controlled. They remained strictly
neutral in their election coverage.
Kuwait has a Censorship Department which reviews all books, films, videotapes,
{leriodicals, and other material entering Kuwait in bulk or for conunercial purposes,
n practice, such censorship is sporadic and aimed mostly at material considered to
be morally offensive or pornographic. In addition, the General Organization of Printing
and Publishing controls the printing, publishing, and distribution of materials
in Kuwait. Private Kuwaiti cooperative societies occasionally boycott publications
that offend moral sensibilities or Islam. For example, a local English-language
newspaper was removed from several local cooperative supermarkets because it carried
material deemed offensive.
Academics operate in a free and open atmosphere with no apparent censorship of
their teaching, research, or writings.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Political parties are banned in
Kuwait, as they were before the Iraqi occupation. Political activity finds its outlet
in informal, family-based social gatherings known as diwaniyas. The Constitution
affirms the right to private assembly and also to public meetings, processions, and
gatherings that are peacefiil and not contrary to morals." Public gatherings, however,
must receive prior government approval, as must private gatherings of more
than five people that result in the issuance of a public statement.
During 1992 the Government denied three permits for public gatherings. In one
instance, the Government denied permission for the Kuwaiti Graduates' Society to
host an election seminar, saying the Society did not have a mandate to sponsor political
events. However, in the month before the Kuwaiti elections, the Government
approved the Societys request to sponsor the same seminar. The Government also
turned down permit applications for one lai^e opposition rally and for an Islamic
group's forum on Afghanistan. In practice, however, opposition groups were able to
hold large public meetings without interference. The Government monitored largescale
opposition diwaniyas in the spring of 1992 but did not interfere. Each night
during the election campaign, candidates (including opposition candidates) held
lai^e public rallies. They also published political platforms and operated without
government interference.
Professional groups, bar associations, and scientific bodies operate and maintain
international contacts without government interference.
      c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution declares that "freedom of belief is absolute"
but must not "conflict with public policy or morals." Kuwait's state religion is
Islam; the Shari'a (Islamic law) is, according to the Constitution, "a main source of
legislation." The ruling family and many prominent Kuwaiti families are Sunni
Muslims. There are no restraints on worship by Shi'a Muslims, who constitute approximately
40 percent of all Kuwaitis. Kuwait has a tiny Arab Christian minority
who are allowed to practice their religion freely. There are a number of legally recognized
expatriate Christian conCTegations and churches, including a Catholic diocese
and an American-sponsored Protestant church. Foreign nationals who practice
eastern religions (e.g., mndus, Sikhs, and Buddhists) are not allowed to build places
of worship but may worship privately in their homes.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
In general, Kuwaiti citizens have the right to travel nreely within the
country. In theory, both men and women enjoy the same freedom to travel abroad,
but there are some limitations in practice. Husbands may prevent their wives and
minor children from leaving the country, and representatives of societies, associations,
and trade unions wishing to travel abroad and participate in international
meetings must receive prior permission. Kuwaitis are free to emigrate and, with an
important exception described below, to return.
The Government's preinvasion practice of revoking citizenship contradicted the
Constitutional provision that "no Kuwaiti may be deported from Kuwait or prevented
from returning thereto." In some cases, revocation was based on the voluntary
acquisition by the individual of foreign citizenship, although many Kuwaiti
citizens are dual nationals carrying U.S. passpmrts. However, as far as is known,
there have been no recent revocations of citizenship. A former opposition member
of Parliament whose citizenship was revoked in the mid-1980's for his support of
Iran during the Iran-Iraq war was allowed to return to Kuwait in 1992, and nis citizenship
was restored.
An anomalous situation exists in the case of the stateless bidoon who resided in
Kuwait prior to the Iraqi invasion and claimed not to have any ^ther nationality
but were unable to document claims of Kuwaiti citizenship. While some percentage
of the bidoon have long standing ties to Kuwait, others inmiigrated to Kuwait in
the 1960's and 1970's in response to Kuwait's oil and construction booms. An estimated
100,000 of the preinvasion bidoon population of around 250,000 remained in
Kuwait in 1992. TTie Government also made it difficult for bidoon who had left the
country during the Iraqi invasion to return, either denying or delaying their entry
visas. The Government's position imposed severe separation hardships on some families.
In 1992 the Government continued its postwar policy of reducing the number of
Iraqis, bidoon, Palestinians, and other foreign nationals in the country. The deportation
of prominent Palestinian writer and columnist Walid Abu Bakr, a 30-year resident
of Kuwait, on February 29 appeared to underscore the Government's determination
to reduce its Palestinian population.
Under the arrangements worked out between the Kuwaitis and ICRC representatives,
the ICRC was able to interview deportees to verify that they were willing to
return to Iraq. The Government also generally abided by its agreement not to deport
Gazan Palestinians with Egyptian laissez passer travel documents. As of October,
almost 40 percent of the 9,000 Gazans remaining in Kuwait had been given 1-year
residence permits. The Government allowed the remainder to stay in Kuwait pending
the resolution of their status by the governments concemea. Despite the Kuwaiti
pledge not to deport Gazans, many Gazans left Kuwait voluntarily in response
to social and economic pressure.
In 1991 the Government set November 15 as the expiration date for temporary
identification documents. This expiration date was subsequently extended several
times until August 15, 1992. After that date, foreign nationals without valid legal
residence facea fines and possible deportation. Certain groups, including Palestinians,
Iraqis, and bidoon, found it extremely difficult to find employment and maintain
residency. As of October, however, most of the remaining Palestinians and
Iraqis had obtained residency permits. Only the Gazans and the bidoon remained
as significant groups with unresolved status.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Kuwaitis do not enjoy the right to change the head of state. However, Kuwaitis
eligible to vote choose the membership of the National Assembly. Under the Constitution,
executive power is vested in the Amir and under him in an appointed
Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister who, in the Al-Sabah family's
tradition, has been the Crown Prince. Following the 1992 election, the Prime Minister
formed a 16-member Cabinet, which included 6 elected National Assembly
members, the largest percentage of elected Assemblymen in the Cabinet in Kuwait's
history. The Constitution places legislative power in the hands of the Amir and an
elected National Assembly, which was suspended from 1986 until October 1992.
The dissolution of the National Assembly, decreed bv the Amir in Julv 1986, was
in effect until the October elections in 1992. Although the Amir has the constitutional
right to suspend the National Assembly, according to the Constitution, elections
for a new Assembly must be conducted within 2 months of the dissolution, otherwise
the old Assembly regains its authority until the "new Assembly is elected."
The 1986 decrees circumvented the election requirement by suspending the section
of the Constitution that called for new elections. The Constitution only gives the
Amir the authority to suspend its articles during periods of martial law. The Amir
had previously dissolved the Assembly from 1976 to 1981. In the Assembly's ab1041
sence, the Amir rules by decrees having the force of law. The National Assembly
has the constitutionid right to review and approve amiri decrees made in its absence.
The 1992 National Assembly began to review all of the amiri decrees after
its convocation and has the power to overturn them.
TTie electoral law provides that candidates for the National Assembly be self-nominated,
with multiple candidates permitted for the 50 seats. In 1992, 303 candidates
registered for parliamentary elections. Kuwaiti law prohibits the establishment of
political parties; however, the Government of Kuwait tacitly permitted the establishment
of several opposition political groups which acted as poutical parties.
Kuwaiti law limits suffrage to adult males who resided in Kuwait before 1920 and
maintained a residence there until 1959 and to their adult male descendants (21
and over). In 1986 the National Assembly approved an amendment to the Nationality
Law postponing until 1996 the enfranchisement of Kuwait's naturalized citizens
who do not meet the pre-1920 qualification.
Tlie NationaUty Law was fiirther amended in 1987 to extend from 20 to 30 years
the total period that all naturalized Kuwaitis must wait before acquiring the ri^t
to vote. Distinctions based on parentage, length of residence, and gender limit citizenship
to a fraction of the resident population. In 1992 approximately 82,000 eligible
Kuwaitis (almost the entire enfranchised male population) registered to vote.
The first National Assembly election since 1985 took place in 1992. The Kuwaiti
Government scrupulously adhered to the required procedures for elections and the
subsequent convocation of the National Assembly. An activist organization, the
newly elected National Assembly is both challenging and cooperating with the Government
on a wide range of issues.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation
ofAlleged Violations ofHuman Rights
The privately organized Kuwait Association for the Defense of War Victims
(KADWV), created in March 1991, seeks to help in the repatriation of internees
from Iraq and address the physical and psychological needs of former prisoners of
war and torture victims of tne Iraqi occupation. KADWV also seeks to curb human
rights abuses in Kuwait and has taken special interest in alleviating the problems
01 the bidoon. The Government has not recognized the Association but has not interfered
in its work, although it did censor a KADWV publication on December 10,
1991, (Human Rights Day) which commemorated the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. The Government's grounds for censorship was that the publication
implied criticism of the Government. Since Kuwaiti law makes no provision for inde-
{>endent nongovernmental organizations, KADWVs status remains legally anomaous.
The National Committee for Missing and POW Affairs, created in May 1991, was
entrusted by the Government with primary responsibility for leading efforts to secure
the release of Kuwaiti captives stiU held in Iraq. The National Committee did
not monitor the human ri^ts situation inside Kuwait.
For the past 2 years, me Government has permitted visits and often met with
representatives oi various international organizations and private agencies concerned
with human ri^ts. Observers from the press, the ICRC, and diplomatic missions
also monitored the state security trials.
Government officials also cooperated with international humanitarian oi^anizations,
including the ICRC, the International Organization for Migration (lOM), the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations
Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
ICRC delegates monitored the status of "protected persons" in detention. The Government
also finalized a headquarters a^eement allowing the ICRC to establish its
regional headauarters for the Arabian Peninsula in Kuwait. The UNHCR was allowed
to establish an office in Kuwait, and the lOM was given several million dollars
by the Kuwaiti Govenunent to operate its office in Kuwait.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
In the late 1980's and up to llie time of the invasion, the Government promulgated
a series of measures which, inter alia, dropped the bidoon (and other stateless
eersons) from the census roles and stripped them of civil identification cards which
ad entitled the bearer to a variety of social services. Many of these persons were
in a legal limbo, without the legal right to woik, attend school, or travel in and out
of Kuwait. The Government established a screening process for bidoon who had
served in the Kuwaiti military and security forces and their families and for bidoon
in special categories (children of Kuwaiti/bidoon marriages). Those who met the
screening requirements were ^ven residency permits; others were reqpiired to return
to their "countries" of origin. By mid-1992, the Government had rehired ap1042
proximately 10,000 bidoon in the police and military. These bidoon were reportedly
hired on 1-year contracts, at the end of which they had to provide the Government
with proof of their "actual nationality."
In many spheres, Kuwaiti women are allowed only a subordinate role by statute
and practice. Women are denied the right to vote and are traditionally restrained
from freely dioosing certain roles in society. Kuwaiti women are able to work, drive,
and have access to nigher education. Particularly since liberation, a number of Kuwaiti
women have demanded a broader role in Kuwaiti society.
The active role that Kuwaiti women played during the Iraqi occupation translated
into some post-liberation caJls for women's suffrage, and legislation to this eflect
was introduced in October by members of the newly-elected National Assembly.
Kuwaiti women have a number of educational and employment opportunities.
Women have full access to government-provided higher education, and an estimated
60 percent of women of working age are employed. Women work as doctors, engineers,
lawyers, and professors. A few women have reached senior government positions.
In July a woman was appointed to the Amiri Diwan (royal court) as Director
of Political Affairs.
The extent of violence against women in Kuwait is unknown; the physical and
sexual abuse of expatriate Asian women (especially from the Philippines, Sri Lanka
and other South Asian countries) who woric as domestic servants received considerable
attention in the press. Some observers believed that the problem worsened
after liberation. Both Kuwaiti and foreign women are subjected to sexual harassment,
but again the extent is unknown.
On several occasions during the spring, over 300 women were sheltered at the
Philippine Embassy at one time. Althou^ most of these women sought shelter due
to contractual or financial problems with their employers, there were significant
numbers of cases involving severe physical and sexual abuse. In one widely reported
case, a Filipina maid was allegedly raped by her employer and his friends and then
coniined in a fourth stoiy room. She was seriously injured when she escaped by
jumping out of the window. In another case, two policemen were arrested and
charged with raping a Sri Lankan maid.
Domestic servants may take legal recourse against their employers for abuse, but
generally do not because of fear of reprisal and a generally substantiated fear that
me police will side with the Kuwaiti employer. The Government said it has acted
to punish abusers, but government action has not effectively dealt with the problem.
The Government has established an office to investigate crimes and complaints involving
domestics and initiated plans to establish a shelter for runaway maids.
Before the dissolution of the National Assembly in 1986, Islamic groups within
that body were able to secure a bar on the granting of citizenship to non-Muslims.
Foreign nationals are prohibited from having majority ownership in virtually
every business other than certain small service oriented businesses and are not allowed
to own property. The (jovemment continued its Kuwaitization policy, begun
in 1991, with the result that significant labor and educational access restrictions
continued to be applied to foreigners, especially Palestinians and other "suspect nationalities."
These persons found it difficult to obtain work and residence permits.
The Government also made it very difficult for foreign workers to sponsor their families
for residency by installing high minimum wage requirements for family visas.
There was no evidence of discrimination among citizens in the administration of
Kuwait's extensive welfare programs. Kuwait's Sni'a minority are less likely to be
appointed to sensitive government positions, although two ministers, including the
important Minister of (Til and a high ranking militaiy officer, are Shi'a. The (Jovemment
tied access to education to possession of a vahd residence permit and further
restricted access to public education, creating hardships for some foreign nationals
with families.
Section 6. Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
Kuwaiti workers have the right to join unions, but
Kuwaiti law prevents the establishment of more than one umon per functional area
or more than one general confederation. Union membership in 1992 was approximately
33,000, (roughly 7 percent of the total work force) organized in 14 unions.
All but two of the unions, the Bank Workers Union and the Kuwait Airways Workers
Union, are afiiliated with the Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF). Foreign
workers, who constitute the vast majority of the work force, were permitted by law
to join unions after 5 years' residence but only as nonvoting memDers. In practice,
foreign workers interested in union membership are able to join within a year or
less of starting employment and residency in Kuwait. However, only 15 percent of
the unionized workers are non-Kuwaitis. Kuwaiti labor law stipulates that any new
union must include at least 1(X) workers, 15 of whom have to be Kuwaiti. The MinI
ister of the Interior must certify that he has no objection to any of the founding
members before a trade union may be established.
Although unions are legally independent organizations, in fact, the Government
maintains a large oversight role with regard to union financial records; 90 percent
of union budgets are in the form of government subsidies. Unions must also follow
a standard format for internal rules and constitutions, which includes prohibitions
of any involvement in domestic political, religious, or sectarian issues; in practice,
these proscriptions are generally neither observed nor enforced.
Under the law, a union may be dissolved by a court decision for violating labor
law or laws concerning the "preservation of public order and morals"; such a court
decision may be appealed. The Amir may also dissolve a union by decree. No union
has been dissolved in either manner. Kuwaiti citizen union members have the right
to elect representatives of their own choosing, provided the candidates are also Kuwaitis
and can demonstrate that they have no criminal record.
The right to strike is recognized but is limited by Kuwaiti labor law, which provides
for compulsory negotiation followed by arbitration if a' settlement cannot be
reached between labor and management (see Section 6.b.). The labor union for the
Ministry of Municipalities briefly went on strike in 1992. It was not disciplined.
The titemational Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee of Experts (COE) reiterated
again in 1992 its longstanding criticisms of a number of discrepancies between
the Kuwaiti Labor Code and ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association and noted
the Government's assertion that draft revisions to the Labor Code fulfill all provisions
of the Convention "except those which run counter to national security."
The KTUF, which consists of nine civil service unions and three oU sector unions,
is a member of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions and the Communist-
dominated World Federation of Trade Unions.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Kuwaiti workers have the
right to organize and bargain collectively, subject to the restrictions cited above
These rights have been incorporated in Kuwaiti labor law and have, according to
all reports, been respected in practice. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited by
law. There were no reports of discrimination against union or nonunion employees.
Kuwaiti labor law provides for direct negotiations between employers and "laborers
or their representatives" in the private sector. In practice, most agreements are
resolved through negotiations, possibly with the assistance of the Ministry of Social
Affairs and Labor. Some employers have wage scales set by wage surveys. If an amicable
agreement is not reached, the parties may petition the Ministry of Social Affairs
and Labor for settlement. If no agreed solution is reached by this means, the
dispute is referred to a labor arbitration board composed of officials representing the
High Court of Appeals, the Attorney General's office, and the Ministry of Social Affairs
and Labor. Most differences do not reach arbitration.
The Civil Service Law makes no provision for collective bargaining between government
workers and their employers. Civil service wages are administratively set
by the Government. In practice, government workers' representatives and ministry
officials hold coordination meetings on a periodic basis. If no agreement is reached
between the individual ministry and its workers, the issue is raised to the Council
of Ministers, whose chairman, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, is also chairman
of the Civil Service Council. Union officials are able to resolve most issues at
the working level and enjoy free access to the Crown Prince and other senior officials.
There are no export processing zones in Kuwait.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution prohibits forced
labor "except in cases specified by law for national emergency and with just remuneration."
This prohibition appears to be respected. However, there are credible reports
that foreign nationals employed as domestic servants have been denied exit
visas if they seek them without their employers' consent.
Foreign nationals are required to obtain a sponsor in Kuwait in order to obtain
a residence permit and cannot change their employinent without permission from
their origiam sponsors. Domestic servants are particularly vulnerable to abuses
from this practice, because they are not protected by Kuwaiti labor law. Sponsors
are frequently reluctant to grant their servants permission to change jobs because
of their financial investment in the servants. In many cases employers exercise
some control over their servants by holding their passports. Domestic servants who
run away from their employers can be treated as criminals under Kuwaiti law. Domestic
servants frequently work long hours, greatly exceeding the 48-hour workweek.
In some reported cases, employers withhold wages from domestic servants to
cover the costs involved in brinsini; them to Kuwait.
The Grovemment of Kuwait took some steps to deal with problems facing domestic
servants by repatriating many of them at its own expense and establishing a law
to regulate employment agencies that hire domestic servants.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The minimum age under Kuwaiti
law is 18 years for all forms of woric, both full and part-time. This law is not fully
observed in the nonindustrial sector. Some small busmessmen employ their children
on a part-time basis, and some South Asian domestic servants are under 18. The
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is charged with enforcing minimum age regulations.
Employers can also obtain permits from the Ministry to employ juveniles between
the ages of 14 and 18 in certain trades.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no legal minimum wage in the private
sector. A two-tiered labor market ensures high wages for Kuwaiti employees while
foreign workers, particularly unskilled laborers, receive substantially lower wages.
However, their wage rates are higjier than what they could expect to earn in their
home countries. The minimum wage in the public sector is sufficient to provide a
decent living for a worker and family.
General conditions of work are established by Kuwaiti labor law for both the public
and the private sectors, with the oil industry treated sepeirately. The Kuwaiti
Civil Service Law also prescribes additional conditions for the public sector. Labor
law limits the standard workweek to 48 hours with 1 fiiU day of rest per week, provides
for a minimum of 14 workdays' leave per year, and establishes a compensation
schedule for industrial accidents. In 1989, the last year for which statistics are
available, the industrial sector employed 24 percent of the woric force.
The ILO has ui^ed Kuwait to guarantee the weekly 24-consecutive-hour rest period
to temporary workers employed for a period of less than 6 months and workers
in enterprises emplojring less man five persons.
Reflecting the petroleum sector's importance to Kuwait, the law governing employment
in this area is more generous than the general laws. It provides for a 40-
hour workweek, 30 workdays' annual leave, and a generous sick leave policy which
authorizes sick leave for up to 2 years. Laws establishing work conditions are not
always applied uniformly to foreign workers.
Women are permitted to woric, except in "dangerous industries and trades harmful
to the health." They are promised remuneration equal to that of a man provided
she does the same worK."
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws.
The Government has issued occupational health and safety standards; however,
compliance and enforcement appear to be poor, especially with respect to unskilled
foreign laborers. Foreign workers, especially unskilled or semiskilled South Asian
workers, frequently face contractual disputes, poor working conditions, and some
physical abuse (see Section 5). Most foreign workers are not well protected by Kuwaiti
labor laws. Domestic servants, for example, are specifically excluded from the
Private Sector Labor Law.