University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, Kuwait, U.N. Doc. A/48/18, paras. 359-381 (1993).


Forty-third session


Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination


The tenth, eleventh and twelfth periodic reports of Kuwait, submitted in one document (CERD/C/226/Add.5), were considered by the Committee at its 995th and 996th meetings held on 9 August 1993 (see CERD/C/SR.995 and 996).

The report was introduced by the representative of the State party, who pointed out that Kuwait categorically rejected racial discrimination and was committed to implementing all the provisions of the Convention. Discrimination was unknown to Kuwaiti society, and it had therefore been considered unnecessary, at the time of the drafting of the 1963 Constitution, to make a specific reference to discrimination on grounds of colour or race. Since its accession to the Convention in 1968, Kuwait had been diligent in reporting to the Committee. However, circumstances beyond its control had prevented timely submission of the tenth, eleventh and twelfth reports.

Members of the Committee welcomed the resumption of the dialogue with the State party, which was still recovering from the effects of the invasion it had suffered recently, and expressed appreciation for the fact that the report submitted by Kuwait was more elaborate than the previous ones and largely followed the Committee's guidelines for the preparation of reports. They nevertheless expressed regret that the report did not provide sufficient information on practical measures taken in the country to implement the Convention. They noted that the statement in the report that "the State of Kuwait ... has witnessed no discriminatory racial practices among its inhabitants" seemed to be in contradiction with various reports of discriminatory policies and practices affecting certain categories of the population. It was pointed out that the report did not seem to have fully taken into account the very comprehensive definition of racial discrimination given in article 1 of the Convention, which included discrimination on grounds of colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.

Recalling that States parties were under an obligation to report fully on legislative measures relating to foreigners and their implementation, members of the Committee wished to receive further information on the situation of non-Kuwaitis residing in the country following the liberation of Kuwait. They requested more details about the demographic composition of the country, including statistics on the number of foreign residents who had left the country after its liberation. Members asked for more precise information on the current situation of certain categories of persons who were reported to be in a very vulnerable position. According to reports from various sources, the Bedoons and the Palestinians had been subjected to ill-treatment, detention, expulsion and torture on the grounds of alleged sympathy for Iraq; many were said to have been dismissed from public sector employment and their children had been excluded from the public school system. Similar problems were reportedly faced by Iraqi nationals and citizens of other countries that had not participated in the coalition. In addition, it was alleged that many domestic staff of Asian origin, mainly women, were subjected to debt bondage, other illegal employment practices, passport deprivation, illegal confinement, rape and physical assault. Members requested information on measures taken by the Government to improve and remedy that situation.
With regard to article 2 of the Convention, members of the Committee requested additional information on differences in the rights of those who had acquired Kuwaiti citizenship since 1922 by comparison with those descended from persons having that citizenship earlier; that appeared to be in conflict with the obligation under the Convention.

In connection with the implementation of article 3 of the Convention, it was asked whether any de facto segregation occurred on the basis of ethnic or national origin.

Concerning article 4 of the Convention, members of the Committee noted that although Kuwait had reiterated its commitment to the provisions of that article in the report, the Kuwaiti authorities had not yet adopted specific legislation prohibiting racial discrimination. In that connection, they recalled the mandatory character of such legislation and stressed the importance of legal anti-discriminatory provisions, if only for preventive purposes.

In respect of article 5 of the Convention, members asked whether the right to equal access to and treatment before the courts was guaranteed for non-Kuwaitis, taking into account the fact that non-citizens could face expulsion without charge or judicial recourse, whereas no Kuwaiti might be exiled. Information was requested on measures taken to prevent the occurrence of extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment which were reported to have affected certain categories of foreigners after the liberation of Kuwait. Members of the Committee requested further information on the situation of foreign workers in the post-occupation period, and it was asked whether they enjoyed trade union rights. Members of the Committee also wished to know whether the provision of health care, education and training services applied to migrant workers and their families, and whether facilities existed for foreign students to attend schools in which they could study their mother tongue. Clarification was sought on the exercise of the right to freedom of religion, and the possibility for members of various religious faiths to build their own places of worship.

With regard to article 6 of the Convention, additional information was requested on the right of victims to seek adequate reparation or satisfaction for damage suffered as a result of discrimination; on the way in which the right of recourse to the courts was enjoyed by citizens of States with which Kuwait had not concluded bilateral agreements; and how many cases had actually been brought before the judicial authorities and settled by them. It was asked whether the Government of Kuwait had fully exercised its powers to prosecute violations of the provisions of the Convention.

As to the provisions of article 7 of the Convention, members of the Committee asked what measures had been taken to ensure their full implementation including, in particular, measures for the training of law enforcement personnel.

In his reply, the representative of the State party recalled the provisions of article 29 of the Constitution of Kuwait, concerning equality of rights and obligations, without distinction as to race, origin, language or religion. He pointed out that the situation of foreigners had not changed after the country's liberation; the Kuwaiti State was still endeavouring to protect their status and ensure them a stable life and a decent standard of living. With regard to the expulsion of Bedoons, following the ending of the Iraqi occupation, he stated that large numbers had now returned. The nationals of countries which had collaborated with the Iraqi regime during the occupation of Kuwait, and more particularly Palestinians, had not been subjected to ill-treatment or discrimination. Out of the 400,000 Palestinians on Kuwaiti territory, 250,000 had left during the occupation because of the prejudice they had suffered. The Kuwaiti State had paid the wages of all those who had left, except collaborators, who could be brought before the courts. There were at the present time approximately 50,000 people in Kuwait with a travel document issued by another country that refused to receive them. Those persons were well treated. A National Assembly human rights committee had conducted a study of Palestinians holding travel documents and had sent a recommendation to the authorities for them to be issued with a residence permit, and the Government was in the process of taking the necessary measures. Domestic staff were not ill-treated in Kuwait and any problems that did arise concerned only about 1 per cent of such employees. The State guaranteed them the same rights as any other Kuwaiti citizen, including the right to institute legal proceedings in the event of ill-treatment; in that regard, a court had recently sentenced an employer to seven years' imprisonment for ill-treating a domestic servant. The Government had set up a reception centre for employees fleeing from families for which they worked.

As to the question of why a law had not been enacted pursuant to article 4 of the Convention, the representative of the State party pointed out that the Convention formed an integral part of internal legislation and that there were laws against discrimination; furthermore, no one in Kuwait had ever been prosecuted on the grounds of racial discrimination.

With regard to any human rights violations committed in Kuwait following the country's liberation, the representative of the State party said that they had occurred during a short period of uncertainty before matters had been taken in hand by the authority of the law. Once it was restored, that authority had made sure that persons brought before the courts benefited from all judicial guarantees and a fair and public hearing. As to the criteria to be applied in granting Kuwaiti nationality, that question was now being discussed in Parliament, with a view to finding a fair and equitable solution to the problem. Kuwaiti women had access to the highest posts; granting women the right to vote was now under consideration and the authorities ensured the elimination of all discrimination based on sex.

Concluding observations

At its 1008th meeting, held on 17 August 1993, the Committee adopted the following concluding observations.

(a) Introduction

The Committee welcomed the resumption of the dialogue with the Government of Kuwait. It welcomed the information contained in the report and the additional information presented orally, and appreciated the fact that the report was more detailed and comprehensive than previous ones and followed the general reporting guidelines adopted by the Committee. It regretted, however, that the report did not provide information on the implementation of the Convention in practice and about factors and difficulties that impeded its application.

(b) Positive aspects

The Committee noted with interest the important developments taking place in the National Assembly, where issues concerning the status of Bedoons and criteria determining the granting of Kuwaiti nationality were being debated. The Committee also noted the willingness of the Government to continue to provide further information on the implementation of the Convention.

(c) Factors and difficulties impeding the application of the Convention

The Committee recognized that, as a consequence of the invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq, the State party had been subjected to serious difficulties which had temporarily affected the full implementation of the provisions of the Convention.

(d) Principal subjects of concern

The Committee was particularly concerned about expulsions and other discriminatory measures against especially vulnerable groups of foreigners, including Palestinians, stateless Arabs, Bedoons, Iraqis and nationals of countries which did not participate in the anti-Iraq coalition, and the treatment of foreign domestic servants. The Committee was concerned that no specific measures had been envisaged to eliminate discrimination with respect to descent, national or ethnic origin. In that connection the Committee referred to official discrimination made between two categories of Kuwaiti citizens: those who possessed longstanding Kuwaiti nationality and those who have acquired Kuwaiti nationality in more recent times. Furthermore, the Committee expressed its concern about the lack of penal legislation to implement the provisions of article 4 of the Convention.

The Committee was particularly concerned about discriminatory measures leading to the exodus of foreigners in the period following the liberation of Kuwait.

The Committee regretted the absence of concrete information in the report of the State party on the implementation of the provisions of articles 2 to 7 of the Convention in practice. The Committee noted, in particular, that no information was provided in the report on the situation of non-Kuwaitis residing in Kuwait, although they were thought to constitute the majority of the population.

(e) Suggestions and recommendations

The Committee recommended that the comments and concerns it had expressed with regard to the consideration of the tenth, eleventh and twelfth periodic reports of Kuwait should be taken into account by the State party.

The State party should take steps to guarantee the enjoyment by individuals belonging to vulnerable groups of foreigners, including foreign domestic servants, of the rights enshrined in the Convention without any discrimination; to eliminate discrimination deriving from the dual system of citizenship; to revise the Penal Code in order to introduce specific legislation to implement the provisions of article 4 of the convention in accordance with General Recommendations VIII and XV of the Committee; to guarantee the right of recourse in courts to victims of discrimination; and to implement the provisions of article 7 of the Convention, in particular through adequate training in human rights norms of law enforcement personnel in the light of General Recommendation XIII of the Committee.

The State party should include, in its thirteenth report, due in January 1994, concrete information about the demographic composition of the population, including the foreign population, and details about the economic, social and political status of non-Kuwaiti residents. That report would enable the Committee to continue its examination of the situation in Kuwait which warranted close monitoring.




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