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Civil and Political Rights Violations in Kuwait
Human Rights Watch's submission to the UN Human Rights Committee

July 2000

TO: The United Nations Human Rights Committee
RE: Kuwait's first periodic report on implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to be discussed at the Committee's Sixty-Ninth Session


Key Sections

Reservations Incompatible with the Object and Purpose of the Covenant

Violations Of Rights to Participate in Public Service and Public Affairs, and the Right to Vote and be Elected

Undue Restrictions of the Right to Freedom Of Expression

Discrimination Based on Origin and Status: The Bidun Recommendations


Human Rights Watch welcomes Kuwait's submission of its first periodic report on implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) but wishes to draw to the attention of the Human Rights Committee certain deficiencies relating to the report and to Kuwait's application of the Covenant.

In particular, Human Rights Watch will focus here on four principle areas of concern. These are:

1. The reservations and "interpretations" entered by Kuwait when ratifying the ICCPR. These, we believe, significantly undermine enjoyment of rights established in, and are not compatible with, the Covenant.

2. The exclusion of women from participation in public service and public affairs, including denial of the right to vote and stand for public office.

3. Restrictions on exercise of the right of freedom of expression.

4. The situation of the Bidun, who are not discussed in the state report, but whose right to residency and civil rights, including children's right to acquire nationality, remain a key issue of contention within the country.

I. Reservations Incompatible with the Object and Purpose of the Covenant

Kuwait has entered three reservations(1) to the terms of the Covenant in an effort to justify the continued application of national laws that discriminate on the basis of sex or religion. The effect of these reservations and Kuwait national law on substantive rights is discussed in subsequent sections. Human Rights Watch considers all three reservations to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the Covenant, as discussed in the Human Rights Committee's General Comment 24.

Kuwait's "interpretive declaration" regarding the prohibitions of discrimination contained in Article 2 (1) and Article 3 states:

Although the Government of Kuwait endorses the worthy principles embodied in these two articles as consistent with the provisions of the Kuwait Constitution in general and of its article 29 in particular, the rights to which the articles refer must be exercised within the limits set by Kuwaiti law.

This reservation directly contradicts the Committee's position that it is unacceptable for states to enter "a reservation to the obligation to respect and ensure the rights [of the Covenant], and to do so on a nondiscriminatory basis (Article 2(1))."(2) It also falls short of the Committee's requirement that "reservations must be specific and transparent," and "should not systematically reduce the obligations undertaken only to those presently existing in less demanding standards of domestic law," or "seek to remove an autonomous meaning to Covenant obligations, by pronouncing them to be identical, or to be accepted only in so far as they are identical, with existing provisions of domestic law."(3)

Kuwait's "interpretive declaration" regarding Article 23 (family rights) and reservation to Article 25 (b) (voting rights) also attempt to improperly restrict its implementation of the rights in these articles where they contradict highly discriminatory existing national legislation. The reservation states that "The provisions of this paragraph conflict with the Kuwaiti electoral law, which restricts the right to stand and vote in elections to males," while the declaration states that "the matters addressed by Article 23 are governed by personal-status law, which is based on Islamic law. Where the provision of that article conflict with Kuwaiti law, Kuwait will apply its national law." Kuwait's Personal Status Law 51/1984 discriminates on the basis of gender and religion,(4) while Kuwait laws on elections and nationality limit suffrage to a subset of male citizens.(5)

II. Violations Of Rights to Participate in Public Service and Public Affairs, and the Right to Vote And Be Elected

Article 1 of National Assembly Members' Election Law 35/1962 restricts voting rights to male citizens over twenty of years of age. Article 6 of Nationality Law 15/1959 further limits rights naturalized citizens, who may not vote in a parliamentary election within thirty years of their naturalization, and who may not run for parliament or be appointed to a parliamentary body.

Kuwaiti law also places restrictions on the right to association that seriously limit opportunities for participation in public affairs. Kuwaiti law provides no provisions for political parties, and has blocked efforts to form parties, in violation of Article 22 of the Covenant.(6) Furthermore, although Kuwait asserts that the activities of clubs and cultural societies "constitute an important channel for the expression of opinion,"(7) Kuwaiti law prohibits all clubs and associations from engaging in political activities.(8) The Human Rights Committee has stated that "the right to form and join organizations and associations concerned with political and public affairs is an essential adjunct to the rights protected by Article 25." (9)

In addition to these general restrictions, the rights of women wishing to participate in public affairs are further limited by Kuwait's prohibition of women voting or running for public office. Kuwait has entered a reservation to Article 23(B) of the Covenant, on the grounds that "the provisions of this paragraph conflict with the Kuwaiti electoral law, which restricts the right to stand and vote in elections to males." Human Rights Watch believes this reservation is incompatible with Article 2(1) of the Covenant. In addition, we are concerned that this denial of voting rights severely undermines women's ability to "take part in the conduct of public affairs by exerting influence through public debate and dialogue with their representatives or through their capacity to organize themselves,"(10) a right and opportunity guaranteed every citizen in Article 25(a).

Notwithstanding its statements to the contrary,(11) Kuwait also unreasonably limits women's access to public service in violation of Article 25(c) of the Covenant. For example, Kuwait's Judiciary Service Code at several points specifies that judges to be male, and in practice all judicial appointments are male.(12)

Kuwait's denial of women's voting rights and limitations on access to public service also violate the Covenant's requirement in Article 26 that domestic legislation prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effect protection against discrimination. This violation is exacerbated by a provision in the Judiciary Service Code that states that "courts may not consider sovereign actions of state," which Kuwait has interpreted to include matters related to voting and nationality. (13)

Recent efforts to challenge the ban on voting have been rejected in both political and judicial fora. In 1999 the National Assembly twice voted down legislation granting women the right to vote and stand for election. Cases brought by women who had attempted to register as voters during the February 2000 registration season have been either rejected outright(14) or suspended pending a decision by the Constitutional Court decisions on whether to hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of the National Assembly Members' Election Law.(15) As of July 11, 2000 the Constitutional Court had rejected requests to hear four such cases on the basis that the lower courts were premature in referring the cases. A fifth case, brought by a male activist, is expected to be heard when the Constitutional Court reconvenes in September 2000.

III. Undue Restrictions of the Right to Freedom Of Expression

Kuwait's Constitution guarantees "freedom of opinion and of scientific research," but restricts the individual's "right to express and propagate his opinion" to those actions taken "in accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by law."(16) In practice, this has been used to stifle legitimate expression, particularly expression perceived as relating to religion, morality, or heads of government.

Printing and Publications Law Restrictions on Expression

Kuwait's National Assembly currently is debating amendments to Printing and Publications Law 3/1961.(17) Press accounts suggest that the amendments will restrict government powers to close newspapers administratively but leave untouched other provisions which have been used to restrict peaceful expression. These include several vaguely worded articles criminalizing expression deemed to offend public morality, disturb peaceful relations between Kuwait and other countries, foment dissent, or criticize God or the person of the Amir, even when it has not been shown to have had a negative effect on national security, public order, health, or morals.

Section I of the law defines a publication as any "piece of writing or drawing or musical piece or photograph or any other of the means of expression if it is able to be circulated."(18) The "sale or distribution in any place of publications is not permitted except with a permit from the Printing and Publications Office."(19) Violations are punishable by a fine up to KD200 (US$650) and confiscation of the publication, except in cases where the publication "includes anything that opposes the national interest or serves a foreign country or entity, or violates the political or social system in Kuwait" where the law provides for a punishment of up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to KD200.(20)

The language of Section III of the law, "The Matters Whose Publication is Prohibited," is similarly vague and open to abuse.(21) Article 23 prohibits publications that violate "by allusion, slander, sarcasm, or disparagement God or the prophets or the companions of the prophet Mohammad"; "subject the person of the Amir to criticism"; or "attribute statements to the Amir without obtaining special written permission from the Printing and Publications Office." Article 27 prohibits publication of anything that "incites committing a crime or foments hatred or spreads dissension among members of society."

Article 24 prohibits not only "publication of news about secret official communications," but also "publication of treaties and agreements undertaken by Kuwait prior to their publication in the Official Gazette except by special permission from the Printing and Publications Office. Also prohibited is the publication of anything touching on heads of state, or disturbing relations between Kuwait and Arab or friendly countries."

Article 25 prohibits publishing "news that affects the value of the national currency, or disturbs ideas on the economy. Also prohibited is publishing news of bankruptcies of businesspeople, commercial stores, currency traders, or currency exchanges, without a except by special permission from the relevant court."

Article 26 prohibits any "publication that violates public morality or persons' dignity or personal freedom, as well as any publication that reveals a secret that damages a person's reputation or wealth or his business name, and the publication of any thing intended to threaten him or force him to pay money or provide a benefit to another or prevent him from working."

In cases where the materials prohibited in Articles 23-27 appeared in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical, the editor and writer are subject to imprisonment for up to six months and fines up to 1000 rupees for the first offense and up to one year in prison and 2000 rupees for a second offense. In cases where the editor or writer have previous convictions under these articles, the court can order up to one year imprisonment and a 2000 rupees fine, suspend the publication for up to one year and confiscate the issue in question, and revoke the publication's permit. (22)

Publications risk judicial suspension and revocation of their permits for a wide variety of transgressions under Articles 29-31, which are subject to expansive interpretations and potentially violative applications. These range from "incitement to overturn the ruling system in the country" to expression of "opinions that include sarcasm, contempt, or belittling of a religion or a religious school of thought."(23)

Finally, Article 37 allows the head of the Printing and Publications Office to ban imported publications in order to "protect public order or morals or the sanctity of religions."

Penal Code Provisions Restrictions on Expression

The provisions restricting expression in the Kuwaiti Penal Code 16/1960 are similar to those in the Printing and Publications Law but provide for harsher penalties. Unlike the Printing and Publications Law requirement that prosecutions under Section III be brought within three months of publication, there is no statute of limitations for these Penal Code offenses, and separate phrases or images in the same work can be subject to multiple prosecutions.

For example, Article 111 of the Penal Code punishes by up to one year of imprisonment and a one thousand rupees fine "anyone who distributes, by any one of the public means specified in Article 101(24), opinions that include sarcasm, contempt, or belittling of a religion or a religious school of thought, whether by defamation of its belief system or its traditions or its rituals or its instructions."

Article 204 sets a punishment up to three years' imprisonment and an up to KD3,000 (US$9,780) fine not only for "anyone who publicly incites in a public place immoral acts and prostitution," but also for anyone who "prints or sells or distributes or exhibits pictures or drawings or forms or anything immoral." Although this article also states that "there is no crime [committed] if statements were uttered or books or drawings or pictures published according to the accepted rules of science or art as that is the basis of participation in scientific and artistic advancement," this provision has been ignored by the courts.

See Appendix 1 for examples of recent prosecutions under these provisions of the Penal Code and the Printing and Publications Law.

IV. Discrimination Based on Origin and Status: The Bidun

In its General Comment 15, the Human Rights Committee has said, "the general rule is that each one of the rights of the Covenant must be guaranteed without discrimination between citizens and aliens. Aliens receive the benefit of the general requirement of non-discrimination in respect of the rights guaranteed in the Covenant, as provided for in Article 2 thereof."(25) The Committee has further stated that the term "his own country" in Article 12 (4) "embraces, at the very least, an individual who, because of his or her special ties to or claims in relation to a given country, cannot be considered to be a mere alien," and may include "categories of long-term residents, including but not limited to stateless persons arbitrarily deprived of the right to acquire the nationality of the country of such residence."(26)

There is a strong presumption that Kuwait is the "own country" of most of the individuals referred to by the government of Kuwait as Bidun, and that Kuwait's systematic and persistent discrimination against them in a range of matters including the right to leave and enter their own country, and the right to register births and marriages, is in violation of the Covenant

Kuwait as the Bidun's "own country"

There are approximately 120,000 Bidun resident in Kuwait. (27) An estimated 240,000 are living outside the country, many of whom would wish to return to Kuwait but have not been permitted to do so.(28) The term Bidun is short for the Arabic phrase "without nationality" (bidun jinsiya), (29) and in Kuwait refers to longtime residents of Kuwait who would be eligible for Kuwaiti nationality by naturalization under the terms of Nationality Law 15/1959(30) but who have not been granted it. This group includes:

1. Individuals descended from nomadic groups whose ancestral lands are within the borders of present day Kuwait but who were unable to claim automatic citizenship under the Nationality Law because they could not prove continuous settled presence in Kuwait from 1920.

2. Individuals who could have registered as citizens under the Nationality Law and earlier citizenship regulations but neglected to do so.

3. Individuals who attempted to claim citizenship under the Nationality Law and earlier citizenship regulations and whose applications were accepted but never acted upon.

4. Individuals who migrated to Kuwait from nearby countries to work and over time lost effective links to and effective nationality in their country of origin, as well as children of such migrants who failed to establish nationality in their parents' country of origin.

5. Children of Bidun parents, including the children of Kuwaiti mothers and Bidun fathers.

Until the mid-1980s the Kuwaiti government treated Bidun as lawful residents of Kuwait whose claims to citizenship were being considered, a status that distinguished them not only from other foreign residents but also from other groups of stateless residents, such as Palestinians from Gaza.(31) They were issued with documents identifying them as Bidun, and with the exception of voting rights they received all the benefits of full citizens, including subsidized housing, education, and health services. Bidun made up the vast majority of the rank and file of all branches of the police and military, and were eligible for temporary passports under Article 17 of the Passport Law of 1959. Intermarriage among Bidun and Kuwaiti citizens is common, and because of the vagaries of the implementation of the Nationality Law it is not unusual for a single family to have members with different citizenship statuses: automatic citizenship, citizenship by naturalization, and Bidun.

Based on existence of these genuine, effective links to Kuwait, there is a strong presumption that most if not all of the Bidun, inside or outside Kuwait, will meet the test of "special ties to or claims in relation to a given country" that make Kuwait their "own country" with regard to the rights specified in Articles 12(2) and 12(4) of the Covenant.

Arbitrary and Discriminatory Policies

The Kuwaiti government subjects Bidun to a broad range of arbitrary and discriminatory policies, discussed below. Of particular note are policies regarding travel, entry, and registration of marriage and birth, which improperly restrict rights guaranteed in Articles 12, 23, 24, and 26 of the Covenant.

Arbitrary Withdrawal of Rights and Benefits

In 1985 the government began applying provisions of Alien Residence Law 17/1959 to the Bidun and issued a series of regulations stripping the Bidun of almost all their previous rights and benefits. In 1986 the government severely restricted Bidun's eligibility for travel documents; fired government employees not employed by the army or the police who could not produce passports, and instructed private employers to do the same.

Restrictions increased in the aftermath of the 1990-1991 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. . Bidun who fled to Iraq to escape the air war found themselves stranded there when Kuwait refused to allow the reentry of all but a few.(32) Bidun government employees were dismissed en masse, and only a small portion were later rehired. Bidun not employed by the government face tremendous difficulties in registering births, marriages, divorces, and deaths because they lack the required identification and are typically required to go through lengthy security checks before the Ministry of Interior will issue a letter of no objection.(33)

More recently, in October 1999 the Ministry of Interior began a nine month program during which Bidun who signed affidavits admitting a foreign nationality and renouncing claims to Kuwait nationality could apply for a five year residency permit and other benefits.(34) After the program ended on June 27, 2000 the Ministry announced it would begin turning over files of Bidun who had not "regularized their situation" to the Prosecution Office and seek deportation of individuals convicted of violations of the Nationality Law or the Alien Residence Law.(35) Prosecutions began on July 8, 2000.(36) Under Article 16 of the Alien Residence Law, non-Kuwaiti nationals can be deported if they have "no recognizable source of livelihood," if a court orders them deported after sentencing, or "if the Minister of Interior believes that the deportation is mandated by public interest, public security, or public morals."

Issues of Particular Concern

Kuwait's arbitrary refusal to allow the re-entry of many Bidun to Kuwait after 1991, and subsequent deportations of Bidun who claim Kuwait as their "own country" are incompatible with Article 12(4) of the Covenant. In addition, the Human Rights Committee has stated that "the right to leave a country must include the right to obtain the necessary travel documents."(37) Insofar as the Bidun lack an effective nationality, the responsibility to issue these documents has fallen on the government of Kuwait. Kuwait's severe and arbitrary restrictions on the circumstances for which it will grant Bidun travel documents, and the limited periods for which they are valid, are incompatible with Article 12(2) of the Covenant, and Kuwait has not provided any information to show that these restrictions are necessary for and proportional to the purposes specified in Article 12(3).

Kuwait's failure to provide a legal mechanism for Bidun to register marriages undermines the enjoyment of the right to marry and found a family in Article 23(2) of the Covenant. Kuwait's failure to automatically issue birth certificates for Bidun children, as required by Article 24 (2) of the Covenant, create similar problems for families.

Under the terms of Nationality Law 15/1959 only male Kuwaiti citizens have a right to pass on nationality to their children, and foreign and Bidun males are not eligible to apply for nationality based on marriage, in contradiction of the Covenant's requirement in Article 23(4) that states ensure equality of rights and responsibility of spouses. In addition, provisions that discriminate in granting nationality against children born to Bidun parents, and against children born to Bidun fathers and Kuwaiti mothers violate the right to acquire a nationality in Article 24 (3). The Human Rights Committee has said that "States are required, both internally and in cooperation with other States, to ensure that every child has a nationality when he is born. In this connection, no discrimination with regard to the acquisition of nationality should be admissible under internal law as between legitimate children and children born out of wedlock or of stateless parents or based on the nationality status of one or both parents."(38)

V. Recommendations

Human Rights Watch calls on the Human Rights Committee to:

Urge the government of Kuwait to withdraw its reservations and declarations regarding Articles 2(1), 3, 23, and 25(B) on the grounds that their incompatibility with the object and purpose of the Covenant makes them unacceptable.

Request Kuwait submit additional information on discriminatory legislation and practices limiting the enjoyment of the rights of the Covenant, with special attention given to discrimination based on sex, religion, national or social origin, and status.

Urge the government of Kuwait to take immediate steps to amend its domestic legislation to respect and ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the Covenant, without distinction of any kind.

Express its concern regarding Kuwaiti laws and practices which limit women's free enjoyment of the rights guaranteed in the Covenant, and urge the government of Kuwait to immediately amend those provisions of its Election Law, Judiciary Service Code, Nationality Law, and Personal Status Law which discriminate against women.

Express its concern regarding Kuwaiti laws and practices which unduly restrict legitimate expression, and urge the government of Kuwait to immediately amend its Penal Code and Printing and Publications Law to be consistent with the rights of the Covenant.

Express its concern regarding Kuwait's treatment of its Bidun population, and urge the government of Kuwait to refrain from discriminating against individuals under their jurisdiction on the basis of their being Bidun; to take immediate steps to ensure the full enjoyment of rights guaranteed in Articles 23, 24, and 26; the ensure to all individuals who can show genuine and effective links to Kuwait the full enjoyment of their rights under Articles 12(2) and 12(4).

Appendix 1

Examples of Recent Prosecutions Expression Under Printing and Publications Law and the Penal Code Provisions Restricting Free Expression

The provisions of the Penal Code and Printing and Publications Law are frequently used to prosecute journalistic writings deemed to insult the Amir of Kuwait, Islam or Islamic morality, and non-journalistic expression perceived to challenge a conservative interpretation of Islamic orthodoxy and morality. The vagueness in the law provides judges with a broad range for interpretation, and provisions in the Penal Code exempting scientific and artistic works are regularly ignored. The following are recent examples of such prosecutions.

The Cases of Dr. `Aliya Shu`ayb, Laila al-`Othman, and Yahiya al-Rubay`an

On March 26, 2000 the Misdemeanors Appeals Court found prize-winning novelist and short story writer Laila al-`Othman and publisher Yahiya al-Rubay`an to have violated Article 204 of the Penal Code and fined them KD1000 (US$3260) each for distributing al-`Othman's novel, al-Rahiil (The Departure). The court also found al-Rubay`an and Kuwait University philosophy professor Dr. `Aliya Shu`ayb guilty Printing and Publication Law violations for distributing Shu`ayb's collection of poetry, Anakib Tarthi Jarhan (Spiders Bemoan a Wound), without a permit and fined them each KD100 (US$326). Both books were ordered banned, although al-Rahiil had been published legally in Kuwait since 1984. Anakib Tarthi Jarhan had been in circulation since 1993.

The March ruling overturned a January 22, 2000 Misdemeanors Court ruling sentencing Dr. `Aliya Shu`ayb, Yahiya al-Rubay`an and Laila al-`Othman, to two months in prison for writings that the court said "included expressions that violate God, and indecent and shameless expressions," but upheld the lower court's ruling that al-`Othman's book was immoral. The ruling did not specify what those expressions were but the writers and their lawyers noted that during questioning prosecutors focussed on a description of an apple in feminine terms in Dr. Shu`ayb's collection of poetry; a description of the "lustful" coming together of sea waves in al-`Othman's novel; and a passage in the novel where a male character, in an expression of the depths of his despair, tells his roommates they can rape him. Dr. Shu`ayb has alleged that the charges against her were brought in retaliation for her academic studies on sexuality and lesbianism among students at Kuwait University.(39)

The Case of Dr. Ahmad al-Baghdadi

On October 4, 1999 the Misdemeanor Appeals Court sentenced Dr. Ahmad al-Baghdadi, chair of Kuwait University's Political Science Department and an expert in Islamic law and history, to one month of imprisonment for disseminating ideas that "contained an extreme insult to and great defamation of the Prophet of God (Praise Be Upon Him)." The ruling overturned earlier court rulings sentencing Dr. al-Baghdadi to six months in prison for writing an article in a student newspaper that violated Article 111 of the Penal Code.(40)

The article, entitled "An Opportunity to Solve the Oppression of Backwardness" had appeared in the July 1996 issue of al-Sho`ula, a Kuwait University student newspaper. Dr. al-Baghdadi noted in the article that "The Prophet (Praise Be Upon Him) failed in forcing Islam upon the society of Mecca for a period of thirteen years, whereas Islam entered the hearts of the Companions from the people of Yathrib or Medina before the arrival of the Prophet (PBUH) in Yithrib."(41) He also noted a historical continuity between the politicization of Islam beginning in the wars of apostasy down to the modern Islamist groups, expressed disapproval of legislation to prohibit co-education at the university, and called on students to oppose the Islamic tendencies. The initial charges against Dr. al-Baghdadi were based on complaints by individuals associated with a conservative Islamic movement, who said the Dr. al-Baghdadi had "opposed the religious tendencies in the University and called upon the students to oppose the religious tendencies and that if they didn't they would be considered backwards and [Dr. al-Baghdadi] opposed the matter of forcing Islam on society and said that the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had failed in forcing Islam on the society in Mecca for a period of thirteen years."(42)

In each of the cases, the courts found Dr. al-Baghdadi's description of the Prophet Mohammad's proselytizing in Mecca as a failure to be decisive evidence of a violation of Article 111. As the Misdemeanors Appeals Court wrote, "the Court views that what the defendant wrote in the article referred to had contained an extreme insult and great defamation to the bases of the Islamic creed, [lacking] the reverence and respect due from each Muslim to the Prophet of this [Islamic] community and its faithful messenger, [who is] the seal of the prophets and its messengers (PBUH), thus it is not proper that he uses reproaches which are used against humankind, or that he uses a description insults the dignity of the Prophet of the Lord of the Two Worlds, as the writer of this article had insulted morality with the messenger of God (PBUH) as he made from religion a cause of corruption of worship."

Dr. al-Baghdadi, who was hospitalized during his imprisonment, received an Amiri pardon after serving fourteen days of his one month sentence - that is to say, one day before he would have forfeited his right to return to his university position on the grounds that he was absent without permission.

Recent Actions against News Outlets

Action taken against media outlets and journalists typically involve charges of insulting religion, morality, or the person of the Amir:

On February 14, 2000 the Council of Ministers revoked the permit of the daily newspaper al-Siyassa and suspended publication of the daily newspaper al-Watan for two years after they reported on an Amiri decree raising salaries of members of the military and security forces. The government denied that it had issued the decree, which had been faxed anonymously to the newspapers. After strong opposition by members of parliament who opposed the illegal intervention by the Council of Ministers, the government issued an Amiri decree revoking the Council of Minister's actions against the newspapers.

On October 18, 1999 the Council of Ministers suspended publication of the daily newspaper al-Siyassa for five days after the paper ran a front-page story quoting conservative Islamist figure Hamad al-Ali. Al-Ali's comments, which indirectly criticized Kuwait's Amir Shaykh Jaber al-Ahmad Al Sabah for issuing an Amiri decree granting women the right to vote, had been widely reported in other Kuwaiti news outlet but al-Siyassa was the only paper to display the story prominently.

On June 19, 1999 Kuwait's Ministry of Information closed the Kuwait office of Qatari satellite TV station al-Jazeera and revoked the permits of its staff in response to a live broadcast of a program on women's rights. During the broadcast a caller who identified himself as an Iraqi national criticized the Amir. The ban was lifted on July 31 after negotiations with the station.

On May 3, 1999 a court ordered al-Hadath magazine closed for one month and fined its editor Madi al-Khamees and columnist Saad al-Enezi KD50 (US$160) each for publishing an article that contained "indecent phrases and words."

In January 1999 an appeals court overturned a weeklong suspension of the daily newspaper al-Qabas and six-month prison sentences against Egyptian cartoonist Ibrahim Marzooq and al-Qabas' then-editor, Mohammad al-Saqr. The two had been charged with insulting Islam after the newspaper ran a January 1998 cartoon showing God evicting Adam and Eve from Eden for failing to pay rent. The appeals court fined Marzooq and al-Saqr KD50 (US$160) each after Kuwait's Constitutional Court had refused to hear their petition challenging the constitutionality of the Printing and Publications Law.

1 Although Kuwait terms two of the reservations "interpretive declarations," the Human Rights Committee has previously noted that "if a statement, irrespective of its name or title, purports to exclude or modify the legal effect of a treaty in its application to the State, it constitutes a reservation." General Comment 24, Fifty-Second Session, 1994, para. 3.

2 General Comment 24 para. 9.

3 General Comment 24, para. 19.

4 For example, Article 18 prohibits apostates from Islam from marrying; prohibits marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim; and prohibits marriage between a Muslim man and a woman who is not Muslim, Christian, or Jewish.

5 See the discussion of voting rights, below.

6 See Kuwait's Initial Report, para. 261.

7 Ibid., para. 241.

8 Ibid., 249.

9 General Comment 25, The Right to Participate in Public Affairs, Voting Rights and the Right of Equal Access to Public Service, Fifty-seventh Session, 1996, para. 26.

10 General Comment 25, para. 8.

11 See Kuwait's Initial Report, paras. 325 and 328.

12Article 19 of Judiciary Service Code 23/1990 does not explicitly require judges to be male, but subsequent articles on swearing in of judges and on appointment of chief justices and other positions in the court of cassation, appeals court, and court of first instance specify male judges.

13 Ibid., Article 2.

14 Four such cases were rejected on May 29, 2000. See for example Dr. Badria `Abdullah Mohammad Hadi al-`Awadi v. Deputy Minister of Interior, 165/2000 Administrative Department 1, where the court ruled frivolous Dr. al-`Awadi's argument that Article 1 of the National Assembly Members' Election Law was unconstitutional and rejected her argument that the registrar's refusal to register her was an negative act judicable in the administrative courts.

15 See for example the ruling on May 29, 2000 in Rola `Abdullah `Ali Hajiya Dashti v. Deputy Minister of Interior, 242/2000 Administrative Department 5.

16 Article 36, Constitution of the State of Kuwait

17 On June 10, 2000 the chairperson of the National Assembly's Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee announced that his committee had returned a draft of the legislation to the government for further amendments, and expected to receive a final version in approximately one month. "The Legislative Branch gives the Government a One Month Deadline to Submit to it the Final Text of the Publications and Printing Law before its Promulgation". Al-Watan Newspaper, Kuwait, June 11, 2000 (Arabic).

18 Printing and Publications Law, Article 4.

19 Ibid., Article 7.

20 Ibid., Article 8.

21 Section III includes Articles 23 to 34.

22 Ibid., Article 28.

23 Ibid,, Articles 29-31.

24 Article 101 specifies "speech, shouting, writing, drawing, pictures, or any other means of the means of expressing an idea."

25 General Comment 15, The Position of Aliens under the Covenant, Twenty-Seventh Session, 1986, para. 2.

26 General Comment 27, Freedom of Movement, Sixty-Seventh Session, 1999, para. 20.

27 Official figures for the Bidun population are difficult to obtain. According to Kuwait's official news agency, Minister of Interior Shaykh Mohammad al-Khaled Al Sabah told reporters that as of February 2000 the Ministry's Executive Committee on Illegal Residents' Affairs (also known as the Bidun Committee) had 121,216 registered individuals. "The Legal Deadline for Settling Affairs of the Bidun Ends Next Tuesday," Kuwait News Agency, June 25, 2000 (Arabic)

28 Estimate of population living abroad based on official estimates of a Bidun population of 260,000 at the time of the 1990 Iraqi invasion, with a conservative 3.5 per cent growth rate per annum.

29 In the 1980s the government also began using the term "of undetermined nationality" (ghayr muhaddad al-jinsiya) to refer to this group, and since 1993 it has also used the term "illegal residents" (muqimun bisura ghayr qanuniya). Despite the new official terminology, in meetings with Human Rights Watch in April 2000 officials from the Ministry of Interior continued to refer to this group as Bidun and distinguish between Bidun and other "illegal residents" like visa overstayers.

30 Article 3 allows naturalization of the child of a Kuwaiti mother and an unknown father; Article 4 allows naturalization of residents present in Kuwait for at least twenty consecutive years (fifteen years in the case of Arabs from Arab countries), subject to other conditions; Article 5 allows naturalization of persons who rendered valuable services, children of Kuwaiti mothers and fathers who are POWs, dead, or have irrevocably divorced the mothers, and Arabs from Arab countries present in Kuwait prior to 1965 who have maintained their residence, as well as non-Arabs present since before 1930, all subject to other conditions; Article 7(bis) allows naturalization of adult children and grandchildren of naturalized fathers, subject to other conditions; and Article 8 allows naturalization of foreign women married to Kuwait men. Naturalization is at the discretion of the Minister of Interior, and only a small number of Bidun eligible to apply for nationality have received it.

31 For example, the number of Bidun was included in the total number of Kuwaiti citizens in the Ministry of Planning's Annual Statistical Abstract until 1988, when it was transferred to the alien population.

32 Although most of Kuwait's citizens left the country via Saudi Arabia during the war, Saudi Arabia rarely allowed Bidun entry and Iraqi authorities required them to surrender passports if they wished to cross to Saudi Arabia. Passports were not required to pass into Iraq, and since most Bidun lacked passports those fleeing the fighting tended to cross into Iraq.

33 See for example "No Health 'No' to Bedoun," Kuwait Times, March 11, 1999, and "Bedouns'Restricted," Arab Times, August 2, 1999.

34 Under the program, which ran from October 1, 1999 to June 27, 2000, Bidun currently employed by the military who admitted a foreign nationality would 1) continue to receive their pensions; 2) continue to receive subsidized housing; 3) continue to receive subsidies for children in private schools. Civilians would receive five year residency permits and would not be required to have a Kuwaiti sponsor, and civilians and military personnel would 1) receive an amnesty from prosecution for violations of the Foreigners Residence Law (military and civilians); 2) be excused from the conditions in the Foreigners Residence Law for accompanying family members; 3) be allowed to continue in government or private jobs; 4) be allowed to continue to receive subsidized health care; and 5) pay only nominal residency permit fees. These benefits phased out as the program progressed.

35 See, for example, "Meeting of the Leaders of Interior and Justice after the End of the Bidun Deadline: Immediate Transfer of Document Falsifiers to the Prosecution and One Month for Violators to Rectify Their Situation Before the Trial," al-Qabas Newspaper, Kuwait, June 29, 2000 (Arabic).

36 As of July 12, 2000, of twenty cases the Ministry of Interior had referred for investigation, five had been ordered detained for twenty-one days for questioning, one had been released on KD100 bail because of his age, and fourteen had been issued warrants for their arrest. "Detention 21 Days for 5 [Bidun] Suspected of Forgery and the Investigations [Office] Searches for 14" al-Watan Newspaper, Kuwait, July 12, 2000 (Arabic).

37 General Comment 27, para. 9.

38 General Comment 17, Rights of the Child, Thirty-Fifth Session, 1989, para. 8.

39 Dr. `Aliya Shu`ayb, interviewed in al-Hayat Newspaper, London, November 8, 1999 (Arabic).

40 On June 2, 1998 the Felonies Court sentenced Dr. al-Baghdadi to six months for the same article. The Higher Court of Appeals then ruled that the lower court lacked jurisdiction because the case did not come under the Printing and Publications Law and should have been heard by the regular Misdemeanor Court as a violation of Penal Code Article 111. The court ordered the case turned over to the Prosecution Office to bring charges. The case was then heard before the Misdemeanor Court, which sentenced him on May 25, 1999 to six months imprisonment for violating Article 111.

41 Quoted in the Misdemeanor Appeals Court ruling, Case 213/99, issued October 4, 1999 (Arabic).

42 From the ruling by the Higher Court, Misdemeanor Section, in Case 8/1996 Misdemeanor 34/1996 Press, Judge Jalal al-Sajii`ii presiding, issued May 25 1999 (Arabic).