Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee
1. The Committee
considered the initial report of Kuwait (CCPR/C/120/Add.1) at its 1851st,
1852nd, 1853rd and 1854th meetings (CCPR/C/SR.1851-1854), held on 18
and 19 July 2000, and adopted the following concluding observations
at its 1864th and 1865th meetings, held on 26 and 27 July 2000.
2. The Committee
has examined the initial report of Kuwait and the additional information
and statistics furnished by the delegation. The Committee appreciates
the frankness with which the report and the delegation acknowledged
the problems encountered in the implementation of the Covenant and the
State party's undertaking to provide further information and statistics
in writing. While welcoming the abundance of laws and tables submitted
for examination, the Committee noted that the report and the delegation
did not sufficiently explain how Covenant rights are enjoyed in practice
by the generality of the people within its territory and subject to
2. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
3. The Committee notes with concern that the position of Covenant rights
in the laws of Kuwait is not clear, due to contradictory constitutional
provisions. It remains unclear, notwithstanding the explanation given
by the delegation, whether individuals can invoke the provisions of
the Covenant directly before Kuwaiti courts.
4. The State
party should guarantee that all rights provided for in the Covenant
are respected and ensured, in order that all individuals within the
territory of Kuwait and subject to its jurisdiction have full enjoyment
of these rights and are afforded remedies pursuant to article 2 of the
5. The Committee,
referring to its General Comment No. 24 on reservations, notes that
the "interpretative declarations" of the State party regarding article
2, paragraph 1, article 3, and article 23, as well as the "reservations"
concerning article 25 (b) of the Covenant raise the serious issue of
their compatibility with the object and purpose of the Covenant. In
particular, the Committee notes that articles 2 and 3 of the Covenant
constitute core rights and overarching principles of international law
that cannot be subject to "limits set by Kuwaiti law". Such broad and
general limitations would undermine the object and purpose of the entire
6. The Committee
finds that the interpretative declaration regarding articles 2 and 3
contravenes the State party's essential obligations under the Covenant
and is therefore without legal effect and does not affect the powers
of the Committee. The State party is urged to withdraw formally both
the interpretative declarations and the reservations.
against women limits the enjoyment by women of their rights under the
Covenant. In particular, pursuant to the Act on Personal Status, women
cannot freely marry before they are 25 years of age, except with the
approval of a guardian, who is usually the father or a judge, women's
right to marry non-Kuwaiti citizens is restricted, and the age of marriage
for men and women is different (17 for men, 15 for women). The Committee
is concerned that polygamy is still practised in Kuwait, that men and
women who commit adultery are not treated equally, and that toleration
of so-called "crimes of honour" adds to the existing inequality between
8. Kuwait must
grant women effective equality in law and practice and ensure their
right to non-discrimination as stipulated in article 26 of the Covenant.
Polygamy should be prohibited by law. The Committee refers to its General
Comment No. 28 on equality between men and women and urges the State
party to take all necessary measures to sensitize the population, so
as to eradicate attitudes that lead to discrimination against women
in all sectors of daily life and society.
9. The Committee
is deeply concerned that, in spite of constitutional provisions on equality,
Kuwait's electoral laws continue to exclude entirely women from voting
and being elected to public office. It notes with regret that the Amir's
initiatives to remedy this situation were defeated in Parliament.
10. The State
party should take all the necessary steps to ensure to women the right
to vote and to be elected on an equal footing with men, in accordance
with articles 25 and 26 of the Covenant.
11. The Committee,
while commending the State party for recent progress achieved in granting
women access to higher education and positions in public life, including
the legal profession, continues to be concerned that the percentage
of women in those higher positions remains low and that, while women
hold positions as investigative judges, there is not one woman serving
as a judge in the courts.
12. The State
party should ensure that women fully enjoy their rights under article
25 (c) of the Covenant.
13. The Committee
expresses serious concern over the large number of offences for which
the death penalty can be imposed, including very vague categories of
offences relating to internal and external security as well as drug-related
crimes. It also regrets that, according to the delegation, there are
28 persons currently on death row and that death sentences have continued
to be carried out since the Covenant entered into force in Kuwait.
14. The State
party should ensure that the provisions of article 6 of the Covenant
are strictly observed and that the death penalty is not imposed except
for crimes that can be seen to be the most serious crimes, following
proceedings in which all the guarantees for a fair trial under article
14 of the Covenant are observed. The State party is invited to consider
the abolition of the death penalty, in the spirit of article 6, paragraph
6, of the Covenant.
15. The Committee
notes that abortion is a crime under Kuwaiti law and that the law makes
no provision for exceptions on humanitarian grounds.
16. The State
party should consider amending the law and make provision for the protection
of the right to life of pregnant women under article 6 of the Covenant.
17. The Committee
is concerned about the number of persons still detained under prison
sentences handed down in 1991 by the Martial Law Courts in trials which
did not meet the minimum standards set by article 14 of the Covenant,
in particular the principles of equality before the courts, the impartiality
of the tribunal, the presumption of innocence, the right to have adequate
time and facilities for the preparation of the defence, and other rights
of due process under article 14, paragraphs 3 and 5, of the Covenant.
18. The cases
of persons still held under sentences described in the previous paragraph
should be reviewed by an independent and impartial body, and compensation
should be paid pursuant to articles 9, paragraph 5, and 14, paragraph
6, of the Covenant, where appropriate. The Committee expresses concern
over the many reported cases of persons detained in 1991 who have subsequently
disappeared, many of them Palestinians with Jordanian passports, Kurds,
and other persons formerly residing in Kuwait. While the delegation
acknowledges only one case, other sources suggest that the fate of at
least 62 persons, whose names have been communicated to the State party,
remains unknown. The Committee notes with appreciation the delegation's
undertaking to receive and investigate this and other lists of names,
and in this connection refers to the State party's cooperation with
the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
(see E/CN.4/2000/64, paras. 113-114).
19. In accordance
with articles 2, paragraph 3, 6, 7 and 16, of the Covenant, the State
party should adopt concrete measures to clarify each and every case
of disappearance and inform the Committee in its next report.
20. The Committee
is concerned about the fact that a detained person may be held in police
custody for a period of four days before being brought before an investigating
official and notes that, according to the report and the oral explanations
given by the delegation, it would appear that this period can be extended.
21. The Committee
stresses that the period of police custody before a detained person
is brought before a judge should not exceed 48 hours. The State party
should ensure that anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge
is brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law
to exercise judicial power (art. 9, para. 3), that all other aspects
of its law and practice are harmonized with the requirements of article
9 of the Covenant, and that detained persons have immediate access to
counsel and contact with their families. In the next report precise
statistics should be provided on the number of persons held in pre-trial
detention and the length of such detention.
22. The Committee
is concerned about reported cases of abuses by the Kuwaiti police, in
contravention of articles 7 and 10 of the Covenant. The Committee nevertheless
notes the State party's increased cooperation with international institutions
such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which facilitate international
monitoring of prison conditions.
23. All cases
of abuse by the police and prison personnel should be investigated by
independent authorities, action should be taken against perpetrators,
and victims should be granted compensation.
24. The Committee
cannot accept the statement of the delegation that there are no minorities
in Kuwait. Given the wide diversity of persons in the State party's
territory and subject to its jurisdiction, it is clear that in fact
there are persons in Kuwait who belong to ethnic, religious and linguistic
minorities whose rights under article 27 of the Covenant should be ensured
25. The next
periodic report should contain comprehensive information on all minority-related
issues arising under article 27 of the Covenant.
26. The Committee
remains gravely concerned about the treatment of the Bedoons (included
in the category of stateless persons) in Kuwait, who number several
thousand. In view of the fact that many of these people are born in
Kuwait or have been living in Kuwaiti territory for decades, and some
are in the service of the Government, the Committee is gravely concerned
over the sweeping statement of the delegation characterizing the Bedoons
generally as "illegal residents". The Committee is concerned that many
Bedoons long resident in Kuwait who left the country during the Iraqi
occupation in 1990/91 are not permitted to return to Kuwait.
27. The State
party must ensure that all persons in its territory and subject to its
jurisdiction, including Bedoons, enjoy Covenant rights without discrimination
(art. 26). The right to remain in one's own country and to return to
it must be scrupulously respected (art. 12).
28. The Committee
is further concerned at the fact that the delegation did not refute
allegations that Bedoons have been offered a five-year residence permit
in exchange for renouncing any claims for naturalization and that the
State party seeks to deport Bedoons to countries with which the person
concerned has no effective links.
29. The State
party should confer its nationality on a non-discriminatory basis and
ensure that those who are granted Kuwaiti nationality are treated equally
with other Kuwaiti citizens with regard to voting rights (arts. 25,
26). The State party is urged to refrain from deporting residents on
the basis of their classification as Bedoons who have failed to regularize
30. The Committee
is concerned about the lack of information concerning the situation
of children of non-Kuwaiti parents living in Kuwait, in particular with
regard to education, medical care, and the issuance of birth and death
certificates. The Committee is further concerned that children who are
born in Kuwait and whose parents are stateless or whose mother only
has Kuwaiti nationality do not acquire any nationality.
31. The State
party should ensure the right of all children in Kuwait to measures
of special protection pursuant to articles 24 and 26 of the Covenant.
The State party is under an obligation to respect article 24, paragraph
3, of the Covenant, in order to ensure that every child has the right
to acquire a nationality.
32. The Committee
is concerned about other instances of discrimination, in particular
the naturalization of Muslim applicants exclusively. It is also concerned
that the legal consequence of a conversion from Islam to another religion
may result in the loss of Kuwaiti nationality.
33. The laws
on naturalization and nationality should be amended to ensure that their
application does not entail discrimination on any of the grounds enumerated
in article 26 of the Covenant.
34. The Committee
is concerned about the lack of information concerning detention of persons
35. The State
party should ensure that all the rights protected under the Covenant
are respected vis-à-vis persons awaiting deportation, in particular
articles 9, 10, 12 and 13, and provide information on these matters
in its second periodic report.
36. The Committee
is concerned about the limits imposed on freedom of expression and opinion
in Kuwait, which are not permissible under article 19, paragraph 3,
of the Covenant, and refers in this connection to its General Comment
No. 10. The Committee is particularly concerned about the vagueness
of chapter III of Law No. 3 of 1961 on Printing and Publication (report,
para. 240), and about restrictions imposed on academic and press freedom,
the temporary closing of a newspaper and the banning of certain books;
it is alarmed at the criminal prosecution, imprisonment and fining of
authors and journalists in connection with their non-violent expression
of opinion and artistic expression, which in some cases has been deemed
to be disrespectful of Islam and in other cases held to be pornographic.
The Committee is concerned about the implications of penal proceedings
against journalists, requiring them to prove their good faith and reveal
their sources, raising issues not only under article 19 but also with
regard to the presumption of innocence guaranteed by article 14, paragraph
2, of the Covenant.
37. The State
party should ensure that every person can enjoy his or her rights under
article 19 of the Covenant without fear of being subjected to harassment.
The Press and Publications Law and the Penal Code should be brought
into harmony with article 19 of the Covenant. Any restriction on the
rights under article 19 must be in strict conformity with paragraph
3 of that article.
38. The Committee
is concerned about Kuwait's legislation on associations, in particular
Law No. 24 of 1962 on the Organization of Clubs and Community Service
Societies, and about the difficulties encountered by Kuwaitis in exercising
their rights under article 22 of the Covenant. In particular, the Kuwaiti
Society for Human Rights has not been able to register as an association
39. The State
party should amend Law No. 24, encourage the formation of human rights
non-governmental organizations in Kuwait and further their activities
so as to enable a culture of human rights to flourish and expand.
40. The Committee
expresses concern that the right of foreign and domestic workers to
form and join trade unions and to take part in their activities is restricted
41. The State
party should enable all parts of the labour force to join and to engage
in trade union activities, for example by informing them of their rights
under article 22, paragraph 1, of the Covenant.
42. The Committee
is concerned about the absence of political parties in Kuwait.
in mind that political parties constitute an important component of
democracy, the State party should take appropriate measures so as to
ensure the right of Kuwaitis to establish such parties, in conformity
with articles 22 and 25 of the Covenant. The Committee notes the existence
of compulsory military service and that Kuwaiti law does not contain
any provision on conscientious objection.
44. In order
to implement article 18 of the Covenant, the State party should reflect
in its legislation the situation of persons who believe that the use
of armed force conflicts with their convictions, and establish for these
cases an alternative civilian service.
45. The Committee,
while noting the establishment of a Human Rights Commission in the Ministry
of the Interior and of a Human Rights Committee in the National Assembly,
encourages the State party to establish a truly independent and effective
mechanism to ensure effective remedies as required by article 2, paragraph
3, of the Covenant.
3. Dissemination of information about the Covenant (art. 2)
46. The Committee
requests that the State party submit its second periodic report by 31
July 2004; this report should be prepared in compliance with the Committee's
revised guidelines, provide gender-disaggregated data and up-to-date
statistics on the condition of women, and give particular attention
to the recommendations made in these concluding observations. The Committee
urges the State party to make available to the public the text of the
State party's initial report together with the present concluding observations.
It further requests that the second periodic report be widely disseminated
among the public, including civil society and non-governmental organizations
operating in Kuwait.