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(New York) The Kuwaiti parliament passed a law on May 10, 2012, that would provide an important expansion of due process protections in Kuwait. The law would eliminate unlimited renewals of pretrial detention and significantly limit the periods allowed for pretrial investigative detentions. The Emir of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, should sign the bill into law.

“Parliament’s newly proposed law will be a significant milestone for protecting the due process rights of detainees in the country,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Ending unlimited judicial renewals of pretrial detention will help eliminate a significant source of the abuse of detainee rights, and serve as a model for the region.”

The new law shortens the period for which a person can be detained by the police without an order from an investigator (prosecutor), from four days to 48 hours, and during that time allows the detainee to contact a lawyer.

After the 48-hour period, the new law would reduce from three weeks to 10 days the period for which an investigator can hold a detainee for investigation and allows the detainee to appeal his detention to a court. The court can renew this investigative pretrial detention for a maximum of 40 days.

If the investigator seeks to lengthen the detention for further investigation, he may do so only pursuant to a judicial order. The law clearly limits any such court-ordered extensions of detentions to a maximum of three 30-day extensions, for a maximum of three months, and allows the detainee to appear before the court to challenge the extension.

International human rights law requires detainees to be brought promptly before a judge. Pretrial detention must be the exception, not the rule, and those held in detention before trial are entitled to a trial within a reasonable time or release.

“This new law will force prosecutors and police to move as quickly as possible to gather any evidence they have on a detainee and ensure that detainees are brought promptly before a judge,” Whitson said. “The Kuwait parliament deserves credit for passing this law, and considering the rights and interests of detainees, who often have no one championing their interests. Every Kuwaiti will be safer and freer from the risk of arbitrary treatment because of this new law.”

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