U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Kuwait
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Kuwait, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa5330.html [accessed 23 July 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
KUWAITAmirs, or princes, from the Al-Sabah family have ruled Kuwait in consultation with prominent community figures for over 200 years. The Constitution, adopted in 1962 shortly after independence, provides for an elected National Assembly and enumerates the powers of the Government and the rights of citizens. It also permits the Amir to suspend its articles during periods of martial law. The Amir twice suspended constitutional provisions from 1976 to 1981 and from 1986 to 1992 and ruled extraconstitutionally during these periods. Kuwait was occupied by Iraq from August 1990 to February 1991, when Iraqi forces were expelled by an international coalition. The National Assembly resumed functioning after the 1992 elections. National Assembly elections were held again in 1996. Legislation passed in 1996 granted the judiciary greater administrative and financial independence, but the Amir appoints all judges, and renewal of many judicial appointments as subject to government approval. The Ministry of Interior supervises the security apparatus, including the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Kuwait State Security (KSS), two agencies that, in addition to the regular police, investigate internal security-related offenses. Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. Richly endowed with oil, in 1997 the country's estimated gross domestic product (GDP) is approximately $17,667 per capita. The decline in per capita GDP from previous years reflects a significant increase in resident foreign workers rather than a decline in economic activity. Costly reconstruction undertaken to recover from the destruction caused by the Iraqi occupation led the Government to incur a cumulative fiscal deficit of approximately $70 billion, which it covered by liquidating government-owned foreign assets and increasing the public debt. The Government is gradually reducing the deficit and plans to eliminate it by 2000. Due to high oil revenues in 1997, Kuwait recorded a $1.3 billion budget surplus. Despite its emphasis on an open market, the Government continues to dominate the local economy through direct expenditures and government-owned companies and equities. The Government has initiated a program of disposing of its holdings of stock in private companies. According to government statistics, 92 percent of the indigenous work force is employed by the Government. Expatriates constitute 94 percent of the private sector work force. The Government's human rights record improved somewhat, although serious problems remain in certain areas. Citizens cannot change their head of state. Police abuse detainees during interrogation. The Government bans formal political parties and women do not have the right to vote or seek election to the National Assembly. The Government restricts freedom of assembly and association, and places some limits on freedom of religion. Journalists practice self-censorship, and the Government uses informal censorship. The Government prevents the return to Kuwait of stateless persons who have strong ties to the country. Deportation orders may be issued by administrative order, and hundreds of people are being held in detention facilities pending deportation. Many have been held for up to 6 years. Discrimination and violence against women are problems. Domestic servants are not protected by labor law, and unskilled foreign workers suffer from a lack of a minimum wage in the private sector, and from failures to enforce labor law. Although the Government has not found a solution to the human rights problems of the approximately 114,000 stateless people residing in Kuwait known as the bidoon, the Government naturalized a small fraction of the bidoon, and made a proposal to consider the naturalization of approximately 10 percent of the bidoon population. The Amir commuted the sentences of 12 individuals who were convicted of security offenses in 1991 by Martial Law and State Security courts.