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Amirs, 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, 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 those periods.  The Assembly resumed functioning after 
the 1992 election.

The Minister of Interior supervises Kuwait's 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.  Allegations of human rights abuses 
by the security forces against nationals of countries that 
supported Iraq in the Gulf War subsided in 1994, though there 
continued to be credible reports that security officials 
physically abused detainees.

Endowed with oil, the Government has made significant progress 
in recovering from the destruction caused by the Iraqi 
occupation.  The costly reconstruction is mostly complete.  In 
the last three fiscal years, Kuwait has incurred a cumulative 
fiscal deficit of $68 billion which the Government has financed 
by selling its foreign assets and increasing the public debt.  
Despite the emphasis the Government places on an open market 
economy, foreign nationals (with the exception of citizens of 
the Gulf Cooperation Council) may not own property or majority 
shares in significant local businesses and are subject to 
restrictive labor laws.  The Government owns interests in most 
of the major banks and in the oil industry.

The Government continues to abridge or restrict a number of 
significant rights.  Limitations on the freedoms of assembly 
and association and women's rights remain in place.  The 
Government bans political parties, and citizens do not have the 
ability to change their form of government.  Associations that 
are not registered with the Government are banned by law, and 
the Government enforced that ban:  in several instances in 
1994, it prevented unregistered human rights groups from 
holding public meetings.  The Government continued its policy 
of preventing the return of stateless, Iraqi, and Palestinian 
people who have strong family ties to Kuwait.  The labor law 
excludes foreign-born domestic servants from its protective 

Nonetheless, the Government made some progress in human rights, 
and it has emerged from the troubled human rights environment 
of the postliberation period.  The Government improved 
conditions in prisons and detention centers, extended the 
franchise to the sons of naturalized citizens, and invited the 
International Labor Organization (ILO) to Kuwait for 
consultations.  The Human Rights Committee of the National 
Assembly continued to investigate important human rights 
abuses, and recommended improvements in prison conditions.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 

The Government did not make public the results of its 
investigations into the extrajudicial killings that occurred in 
the period following Kuwait's liberation in 1991, nor did it 
signal that it intends to take further action.  The Government 
had announced in 1993 that it would reactivate the 
investigations into the killings.  Most of the cases remain 

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

Of the numerous disappearances that occurred in 1991, about 100 
cases remain unresolved.  The Ministry of Interior claims that, 
in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red 
Cross (ICRC), it has renewed its efforts to resolve the cases, 
but has not yet done so.  The Government has failed to issue 
death certificates in cases where those who disappeared are 
known to be dead.  The Government's failure to resolve these 
cases stems from an unwillingness to open and pursue criminal 
investigations into the causes of the deaths.

According to the ICRC, Iraqi authorities took prisoner 609 
Kuwaitis and residents of Kuwait, including 9 women, during 
Iraq's occupation.  These people are still missing or detained 
in Iraq.  The Government of Iraq has refused to comply with 
U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, which stipulates that the 
detainees be released.  Iraq denies that it holds Kuwaiti 
detainees and refuses to account for missing Kuwaitis taken 
into Iraqi custody during the occupation.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Although the Constitution prohibits torture, credible reports 
indicate that physical abuse during interrogation did occur.  
The number of reports of abuse, however, declined in 1994 
compared to the aftermath of the Gulf War.  No pattern of 
systematic or widespread abuse appeared.  The reported types of 
abuse consisted of blindfolding, verbal threats, slaps, and 

The Government claims that it investigates all torture 
allegations and that it has punished at least some of the 
offenders.  However, the Government refuses to make public its 
findings in torture investigations or what, if any, punishments 
are imposed.  This creates a climate of implied impunity which 
diminishes the deterrence against torture and abuse.

Defendants have the legal right to present evidence in court 
that they had been mistreated during interrogation, and judges 
routinely review such allegations.  Since defendants are often 
unable to substantiate their complaints with physical evidence, 
however, these allegations are often dismissed.  In 1991 judges 
in martial-law courts handed down several death sentences based 
on confessions apparently obtained under torture.  Courts later 
refused to reopen these trials, although the sentences were 
commuted to imprisonment varying from 10 to 20 years.  In 1994 
a State Security Court ruled against excluding the confession 
of 14 persons accused of attempting to assassinate former U.S. 
President George Bush--despite allegations raised by the 
defense that the confessions were obtained by torture (see 
Section 1.d.).

Prison conditions do not meet internationally recognized 
minimum standards.  Many prisoners live in severely overcrowded 
cells where unsanitary conditions are conducive to the quick 
spread of contagious illnesses.  Nonetheless, the Government 
moved in 1994 to improve some conditions.  After a prison tour 
by several members of the National Assembly in February, prison 
authorities installed air conditioning at some facilities and 
gave prisoners permission to take outdoor exercise and receive 
visits from their families.  The Government allows the ICRC 
access to all detention facilities.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for the freedom from arbitrary arrest 
and detention, but security forces do not always respect these 
rights.  In 1994 there were no reports of arbitrary arrest.  
Security forces in Kuwait City sometimes set up checkpoints 
where they may briefly detain individuals.  The Government has 
stopped the practice of rounding up and deporting Palestinian 

Police officers must obtain arrest warrants from state 
prosecutors before making arrests, though in misdemeanor cases 
the arresting officer may issue them.  Under the Penal Code, a 
suspect may not be held for more than 4 days without charge.  
Security officers sometimes prevent families from visiting 
detainees during this confinement.  After 4 days, prosecutors 
must either release the suspect or file charges.  If charges 
are filed, prosecutors may remand a suspect to an additional 21 
days in detention.  Prosecutors may also obtain court orders 
for further detention pending trial.

Detention rules are different for cases involving state 
security.  In such cases, prosecutors may hold a suspect in 
detention for 6 months, and a judge may authorize a longer 
confinement pending trial.  After 21 days in detention, a 
defendant has the right to petition for his release in the 
State Security Court.  If the judge denies the motion, the 
defendant may submit another appeal 30 days after the 
rejection.  In general, cases go to trial between 20 and 30 
days after arrest.  There is no evidence of long-term 
incommunicado detention, though there are about 30 detainees 
facing deportation, especially Iraqi citizens and the "bidoon" 
or stateless residents, who have been in detention for more 
than a year (see Section 1.d.).

Approximately 1,850 people are in prison, of whom 400 are in 
pretrial detention.  About 75 percent of the detainees face 
administrative deportation orders which the Ministry of 
Interior may issue arbitrarily.  There are no trials for 
deportations; thus deportees do not have "due process."  The 
Government may expel noncitizens, even those who have been 
long-term residents, if it considers them security risks.

The Government may also expel foreigners if they are unable to 
obtain or renew work or residency permits.  In 1994 the 
Government deported 122 Iraqis and nationals of countries that 
supported Iraq in the Gulf War (primarily Yemen and Jordan), 
well below the 1993 level.  Although the ICRC monitors only the 
deportation of these cases, the Government also routinely 
deports Iranians and other foreign nationals who have violated 
residency requirements or committed other offenses.

The law protects citizens from exile.  However, before the 
Iraqi invasion there were credible reports that in some cases 
the Government evaded this law by revoking citizenship in order 
to deport citizens as noncitizens.  There have been no reports 
of revocations of citizenship since the Gulf War.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is composed of the regular courts, which 
try criminal and civil cases; the State Security Court, which 
tries cases of a security nature; and the Court of Cassation, 
which is the highest level of judicial appeal.  During periods 
of martial law, the Amir may authorize military courts to try 
civilian defendants.  There have been no martial-law trials 
since 1991.  Sunni and Shi'a Muslims have recourse to courts of 
their respective denominations for family-law cases.

The Constitution states that "judges shall not be subject to 
any authority."  Nonetheless, the Ministry of Justice controls 
the judiciary's administrative and financial matters.  The Amir 
appoints all judges on recommendations from the Minister of 
Justice.  Judges who are citizens have lifetime appointments, 
but the Government also employs many noncitizens as judges.  
They work under 1-year, renewable contracts, which undermine 
their independence.  The Ministry of Justice may remove judges 
for cause but rarely does so.  Foreign residents involved in 
commercial disputes with citizens frequently complain that 
courts show a pro-Kuwaiti bias.

Defendants have the rights to confront their accusers and of 
judicial appeal.  The Amir has the constitutional power to 
pardon or commute all sentences.  Defendants in felony cases 
are required by law to be represented in court by legal 
counsel.  In misdemeanor cases, defendants have the right to 
waive the presence of legal counsel, and the court is not 
required to provide counsel to indigent defendants.

Both defendants and prosecutors may appeal verdicts of the 
State Security Court to the Court of Cassation, but the 
appellate court may only determine whether the law was properly 
applied with respect to the sentence; it does not rule on guilt 
or innocence.  In criminal cases not involving state security, 
appeal is to the High Court of Appeal, which may rule on all 
aspects of the lower court's decision.

In the secular courts there are no groups, including women, who 
are barred from testifying or whose testimony is given lesser 
weight.  The Islamic courts, which have jurisdiction over 
family law, follow Islamic law, which states that the testimony 
of one man equals that of two women.

Most trials are public, as was the 1994 trial of 14 persons 
accused in the foiled assassination plot against former 
President Bush.  In June the State Security Court convicted 13 
defendants and acquitted 1.  It sentenced six defendants to 
death and seven to prison terms ranging from 6 months to 12 
years.  Like other trials, this one did not meet 
internationally accepted standards regarding an independent 
judiciary and the evidence required for proving abuse.

There are no reported political prisoners, but the Government 
continues to hold persons accused of collaboration with Iraq 
during the occupation.  By law such collaboration is a felony.  
Most of the people convicted in martial-law courts (including 
the majority of collaborators) did not receive a fair trial.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution provides for individual privacy and sanctity 
of the home.  The police must obtain a warrant to search both 
public and private property, unless they are in hot pursuit or 
suspect the presence of alcohol or narcotics.  The warrant can 
be obtained from the state prosecutor or, in the case of 
private property, from a judge.  The security forces 
occasionally monitor the activities of individuals and their 

By law males must obtain government approval to marry 
foreign-born women.  However, the Government does not 
vigorously enforce the restriction, and Kuwaitis routinely 
obtain exemptions from the Ministry of Justice.  The Government 
also advises women against marrying foreign nationals.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Several laws empower the Government to impose restrictions on 
the freedom of speech and the press, but the Government did not 
apply these laws in 1994.  In general, citizens are free to 
criticize the Government at public meetings and in the media.  
However, the Press Law prohibits the publication of any direct 
criticism of the Amir, official government communications with 
other states, and material that "might incite people to commit 
crimes, create hatred, or spread dissension among the people."  
The Government ended censorship in 1992, but journalists still 
censor themselves.

Nonetheless, newspapers, which are privately owned, are free to 
publish on many social, economic, and political issues, and 
frequently criticize government policies and officials, 
including the Prime Minister.  The Government does not censor 
foreign journalists and permits them open access to the country.

Newspapers must obtain an operating license from the Ministry 
of Information.  This licensing power allows the Government 
control over the establishment of new publications.  The law 
also stipulates that publishers may lose their license if their 
publications do not appear for 6 months.  This "6-month" rule 
prevents publishers from publishing sporadically--it is not 
used to suspend or shut down existing newspapers.  Individuals 
must also obtain permission from the Ministry of Information 
before publishing any printed material, including brochures and 
wall posters.

The Government owns and controls the radio and television 
companies.  The Middle East Broadcasting Company and Egyptian 
television transmit to Kuwait without censorship.  The 
Government does not inhibit the purchase of satellite dishes.  
Citizens with such devices are free to watch a variety of 
programs, including those broadcast from Israel.

The Ministry of Information has a Censorship Department that 
reviews all books, films, videotapes, periodicals, and other 
imported publications.  In practice, such censorship is 
sporadic and aimed mostly at morally offensive material; 
however, political topics may be censored.  The General 
Organization of Printing and Publishing controls the printing, 
publishing, and distribution of informational material.

Academics conduct their activities with no apparent censorship 
of their teaching, research, or writings, while subject to the 
same restraints as the media with regard to criticism of the 
Amir or Islam.

     b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although the Constitution affirms the right to assembly, the 
Government bans political parties.  However, several informal 
blocs, acting much like parties, coalesced during the 1992 
elections and have been present in succeeding National Assembly 
sessions.  The Government has made no effort to limit these 
groupings, which are organized on the basis of common 
ideological goals.  Many of them may be categorized as 
"opposition" groups.  Public gatherings, however, must receive 
prior government approval, as must private gatherings of more 
than five persons that result in the issuance of a public 

Political activity finds its outlet in informal, family-based, 
almost exclusively male, social gatherings known as diwaniyas.  
Practically every male adult, including the Amir, hosts and 
attends diwaniyas, at which every possible topic is discussed 
and which contribute to the development of political consensus 
and official decisionmaking.

The Government regards all nongovernmental organizations 
(NGO's) as illegal unless they obtain a license from the 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.  The Government uses its 
power to license as a means of political control.  The Ministry 
has registered over 55 NGO's, including professional groups, 
bar associations, and scientific bodies.  These groups receive 
government subsidies for their operating expenses.  They must 
obtain permission from the Ministry before attending 
international conferences.

However, since 1985 the Ministry has issued only two licenses, 
including one in 1994 to the Union of Kuwaiti Womens' Groups, 
which is headed by the wife of the Crown Prince.  The Ministry 
has disapproved other requests for licenses on the grounds that 
previously established NGO's already provide services similar 
to those proposed by the petitioners.

Despite the Ministry's refusal to issue additional permits, 
private organizations flourish, and their illegal activities 
are largely overlooked by the Government.  However, in 1993 the 
Cabinet issued a decree ordering all unregistered NGO's to 
cease activities.  No organization has challenged this decree 
in court.

In September the Ministry of Interior ordered three 
unregistered NGO's to vacate the offices that they had 
established in unused government buildings.  They complied with 
the order.  By banning unregistered NGO's, the Government 
sought to dissolve groups whose efforts were not coordinated 
with a government committee working for the release of missing 
persons presumed held in Iraq.  The Government views these 
groups as politically unacceptable (see Section 4).  However, 
in issuing the ban, the Government did not cite why it objected 
to these groups' activities, aside from the fact that the 
groups were unregistered.

The ban prevents unregistered NGO's from holding public 
meetings and or being cited in the press, though many groups 
continue activities under the patronage of legal institutions, 
for example the National Assembly.  The ban also discourages 
these groups from fundraising and recruitment.  Some 
unregistered NGO's remain open and conduct their activities as 
well as possible in a hostile legal environment.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Islam is the state religion.  The Constitution states that 
Islamic law, Shari'a, is "a main source of legislation."  The 
ruling family and many prominent families belong to the 
denomination of Sunni Islam.  However, 40 percent of the 
population belong to the Shi'a denomination.  They are free to 
conduct their liturgies and rites without government 
interference.  There is a tiny Arab Christian minority which 
practices freely, and several legally recognized expatriate 
congregations and churches, including a Catholic diocese and an 
American-sponsored Protestant church.  Residents who are 
members of religions not sanctioned by the Koran (e.g., Hindus, 
Sikhs, and Buddhists) may not build places of worship, but may 
worship in their homes.  The Government prohibits missionaries 
to proselytize among Muslims, but they may serve expatriate 
congregations.  The law prohibits religious education for 
religions other than Islam, although this law does not appear 
to be strictly enforced.  The Government does not permit the 
establishment of non-Islamic publishing companies or training 
institutions for clergy.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens have the right to travel freely within the country and 
to change their workplace as desired.  Women must obtain 
permission from their husbands or a close male relative to 
obtain a passport for travel abroad.  Airport authorities 
sometimes, but not often, ask female travelers to present the 
required documentation before departing the country.  
Representatives from NGO's must obtain government permission 
before representing Kuwait at international conferences 
abroad.  Citizens are free to emigrate and to return.

A serious problem exists in the case of the "bidoon," who are 
stateless persons, usually of Iraqi or Iranian descent, who 
resided in Kuwait prior to the Iraqi invasion.  The Government 
argues that many of the bidoon (the term means "without") are 
actually the citizens of other countries, who claim they are 
stateless in order to remain in Kuwait, become citizens, and 
enjoy the generous government benefits provided to citizens.  
Some bidoon have had residency ties to Kuwait for generations.  
Others immigrated to Kuwait during the oil boom years.  At the 
end of 1994, there were about 117,000 stateless people in 
Kuwait, down from the prewar level of about 220,000.  The 
Government does not wish to see the return of the bidoon who 
departed Kuwait during the Gulf war.  It frequently delays or 
denies issuing them entry visas.  This policy imposes serious 
hardships and family separations.

In 1994 the Government continued its postwar policy of reducing 
the number of Iraqis, bidoon, Palestinians, and other foreign 
residents.  However, the Government permits the ICRC to verify 
if the deportees object to returning to their country of 
origin.  The Government holds those deportees who have 
objections at the main deportation center.

In 1993 the Government discontinued its postwar practice of 
arresting and deporting Gazan Palestinians for violating 
residency laws.  The Government issued 1-year renewable 
residency permits to 5,000 of the 8,000 Gazans remaining in 
Kuwait, but did not seek to deport those without residency 
permits.  Nonetheless, the Government and social pressure 
prodded many Gazans to depart Kuwait.

There is no legislation governing refugees.  The Constitution 
prohibits the extradition of political refugees.  The Ministry 
of Interior issues residency permits to persons granted 
political asylum.  The Government does not deport anyone who 
claims a fear of persecution at home; but it will often 
maintain such persons in detention rather than grant them 
permission to live and work in Kuwait.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Kuwaiti citizens cannot change their system of government.  
Women and many others are disfranchised; only 30 percent of 
adult citizens are eligible to vote.  Under the Constitution, 
the Amir holds executive power and shares legislative power 
with the National Assembly.  The Prime Minister presides over a 
16-member Cabinet.  In accordance with the practice of the 
ruling family, the Prime Minister is always the Crown Prince.

The Constitution empowers the Amir to suspend its provisions 
and to rule by decree.  In 1986 the Amir effectively dissolved 
the National Assembly by suspending the constitutional 
provisions on the Assembly's election.  The Assembly remained 
dissolved until 1992.  The Amir had previously dissolved the 
Assembly from 1976 to 1981.

An election was held for the National Assembly in 1992 in which 
303 candidates ran for the Assembly's 50 seats.  Members serve 
4-year terms.  The Constitution empowers the Assembly to 
overturn any Amiri decrees made during the dissolution.  After 
the election, the Assembly used its power to revoke some 
decrees issued from 1986 to 1992.  Since the Government 
prohibits political parties, Assembly candidates must nominate 
themselves.  Nonetheless, informal political groupings are 
active in the Assembly.

Approximately 82,000 citizens, almost the entire franchised 
male population at the time, registered to vote in the 1992 
election.  In 1994 the Assembly passed legislation extending 
the right to vote to the sons of naturalized Kuwaiti citizens, 
about 110,000 males.  Previously, the law had restricted 
suffrage to adult males who had resided in Kuwait before 1920 
and maintained a residence there until 1959, and their male 
descendants.  According to the 1994 law, naturalized citizens 
who have been naturalized citizens for at least 30 years will 
also be eligible to vote in 1996.

A majority of candidates elected in 1992 have stated that they 
favored extending the vote to women, but proposals to do so 
have been delayed in a legislative committee.  The Amir and the 
Prime Minister have publicly stated that they support political 
rights for women, but have made no apparent effort to persuade 
the National Assembly.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government prevents the establishment of human rights 
groups by not approving their requests for licenses (see 
Section 2.b.).  Until the ban on unregistered NGO's, the Kuwait 
Association for the Defense of War Victims (KADWV), a private 
group created in 1991, helped to repatriate citizens interned 
in Iraq, and aided former prisoners of war and persons tortured 
by Iraqi occupation forces.  KADWV also sought to curb human 
rights abuses in Kuwait and took special interest in 
alleviating the problems of the bidoon.  In February the 
Government canceled a KADWV human rights seminar (which 
subsequently took place under the auspices of the National 

The Government permits international human rights organizations 
to visit Kuwait and to establish offices.  Several 
organizations conduct field work and report excellent 
communication with and reasonable cooperation from the 

The National Assembly has established a Human Rights Committee 
which has taken testimony from individuals about abuses and has 
made nonbinding recommendations for redress.  In 1994 the 
Committee investigated prison conditions.  As a result of the 
investigation, the Ministry of Interior has improved some 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Women experience legal and social discrimination.  They are 
denied the right to vote and require their husbands' or 
fathers' permission to obtain a passport or travel abroad (see 
Sections 2.d. and 3).  By law only males are able to confer 
citizenship.  In rare cases, this means that children born to 
Kuwaiti mothers and stateless fathers are themselves 
stateless.  Inheritance is governed by Islamic law, which means 
that female heirs receive half the male heirs' inheritance.  A 
sole female heir receives half her parents' estate; the balance 
goes to designated male relatives unless a woman's family has 
made other arrangements to transfer assets to her.

Women are traditionally restrained from choosing certain roles 
in society, and the law restricts women from working in 
"dangerous industries" and trades "harmful" to health.  
Educated Kuwaiti women maintain that a resurgent Islamic 
fundamentalist trend limits career opportunities.  Women 
wearing Western clothes and foreign women experience sexual 
harassment more frequently than women in Islamic garb.  
Nonetheless, an estimated 60 percent of women of working age 
are employed.  The law promises "remuneration equal to that of 
a man provided she does the same work."  This promise is 
respected in practice.  Women work as doctors, engineers, 
lawyers, and professors.  A few have reached senior government 
positions in the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Education, and 
the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation.  However, there 
are no female judges or prosecutors, only a few women in the 
diplomatic service, and none in the National Assembly.

Domestic abuse of women is common.  Each of the country's 50 
police stations receives one or two complaints of spousal abuse 
per week.  Women in such cases usually take refuge in the homes 
of relatives.  The police generally seek to resolve family 
disputes and may ask the offending spouse to sign a statement 
affirming that he will discontinue the abuse.  The police refer 
serious cases of abuse to authorities at the Ministry of 
Health.  Kuwaiti courts have found husbands guilty of spousal 

Many employers have physically and sexually abused Asian women 
working as their domestic servants.  Such abuse appears to have 
worsened in recent years.  The press gives the problem 
considerable attention.  Foreign-born servants have the right 
to sue their employers in court for abuse, but few do so owing 
to both fear of deportation and fear that the judicial system 
is biased against them.  In 1993 the Government established an 
office under the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of 
Social Affairs and Labor to investigate the complaints of 
domestic servants.  The Government has also announced its 
intention to establish a shelter for runaway maids but has not 
yet done so.  As an interim measure, the authorities have 
designated a police station to investigate complaints and 
provide some shelter.

Many domestic servants seek shelter at their country's embassy 
where they seek repatriation or a change in employers.  On 
several occasions, the Philippine Embassy has sheltered over 
250 women at one time, roughly half of whom complain of 
physical or sexual abuse and half have contractual complaints 
against their employers.

The Government discontinues family entitlements to divorced 
women, but continues to make such payments to the divorced 
husbands who are expected by law and custom to provide for the 
children.  The law discriminates against women married to 
foreign men.  These women are not entitled to government 
housing subsidies which are available to other citizens.  The 
law also requires Kuwaiti women to pay residency fees for their 
foreign-born husbands and does not recognize marriage as the 
basis for granting residency rights to foreign-born husbands.  
Instead, the law grants residency only if the husband is 
employed.  By contrast, men married to foreign women do not 
have to pay residency fees for their spouses and their spouses' 
right to residency derives from marriage.


The Government is committed to providing for the welfare of 
children, providing free education and health care to all 
children and a variety of other services.

There is no child prostitution, child labor problem, or any 
pattern of societal abuse of children.  However, in 1993 the 
Minister of Interior ordered all public and private schools not 
to enroll the children of parents without valid residence 
permits.  Moreover, the Government orders the children of 
persons awaiting deportation to be held with their mothers at 
the women's detention facility, in conditions unsuitable for 

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Government's failure to improve the plight of the 117,000 
bidoon, or persons of undetermined nationality with long 
residency in Kuwait, remains a significant human rights abuse 
(see Section 1.d.).  The bidoon have been the objects of 
hostile government policy since the late 1980's.  Since that 
time, the Government has eliminated the bidoon from the census 
rolls, discontinued their access to government-provided social 
services, and has sought to deport many bidoon to other 
countries.  In 1993 the Government decreed that bidoon males 
may no longer serve in the military services.

The bidoon exist in a legal limbo.  Because their citizenship 
or residency status is undetermined, they do not have a legal 
right to work or enroll their children in public or private 
schools.  If the bidoon travel abroad, they are uncertain if 
immigration authorities will allow them to reenter Kuwait.  
Marriages pose special hardships because the offspring of male 
bidoon inherit the father's undetermined legal status.

The Government has established a review process which would 
regularize the status of some of the bidoon and their families, 
especially for any bidoon who has served in the military or 
security forces, and for the children born to marriages between 
bidoon males and Kuwaiti women.  However, the process is 
improvised, slow, and ineffective.  Government officials claim 
they recognize the hardships suffered by the bidoon, but so far 
they have not proposed any remedial legislation.

Since the end of the Gulf War, the Government has been hostile 
to workers from those nationalities that supported Iraq, 
especially Palestinians, Jordanians, and Yemenis.  The 
Government has delayed or denied the issuance of work and 
residency permits to persons in these groups, and in many cases 
has hindered such workers from sponsoring their families to 
join them in Kuwait.  The Government imposes further hardships 
by prohibiting schools from enrolling the children of such 
persons without valid residency permits.

     Religious Minorities

Although Christians are free to practice openly, the Government 
prohibits Christians from proselytizing Muslims, and Muslims 
from converting from Islam.  The law prohibits non-Muslims from 
becoming citizens.  A non-Muslim male must convert to Islam 
when he marries a Kuwaiti woman, if the wedding is to be legal 
in Kuwait.

Government welfare programs generally do not discriminate 
against Shi'a Muslim citizens.  Members of Kuwait's Shi'a 
minority are generally underrepresented in high government 
positions, although in recent years two Shi'a Muslims were 
appointed to the Cabinet and one was named to a high-ranking 
military post.

     People with Disabilities

No institutionalized discrimination exists against physically 
disabled persons in housing, employment, education, or the 
provision of state services.  The Government has not legislated 
or mandated accessibility for the disabled, but does provide 
extensive benefits for the disabled that cover job training, 
transportation, and social welfare.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the right, but are not required, to join trade 
unions.  Nonetheless, the Government restricts the right of 
association by prohibiting all workers from freely establishing 
trade unions.  The law stipulates that workers may establish 
only one union in any occupational trade, and that the unions 
may establish only one federation.  The International Labor 
Organization (ILO) has long criticized such restrictions.

In 1994 over 28,400 people were organized in 14 unions, 12 of 
which are affiliated with the Kuwait Trade Union Federation 
(KTUF), the sole, legal trade union federation.  The Bank 
Workers Union and the Kuwait Airways Workers Union are 
independent.  The Government has shown no sign that it would 
accept the establishment of more than one legal trade union 
federation.  The law stipulates that any new union must include 
at least 100 workers, of whom at least 15 are citizens.  Both 
the ILO and the International Confederation of Free Trade 
Unions have criticized this requirement because it discourages 
unions in sectors employing few citizens, such as the 
construction industry and domestic servants.

The Government's intrusive oversight powers further erode union 
independence.  The Government subsidizes as much as 90 percent 
of most union budgets, may inspect the financial records of any 
union, and prohibits any union from engaging in vaguely defined 
political or religious activities.  The law empowers the courts 
to dissolve any union for violating labor laws or for 
threatening "public order and morals."  The Amir may also 
dissolve a union by decree.  By law, the Ministry of Social 
Affairs and Labor is authorized to seize the assets of any 
dissolved union.  The ILO has criticized this aspect of the 
law.  Although no union has been dissolved, the law 
subordinates the legal existence of the unions to the power of 
the State.

Foreigners constitute most of Kuwait's total work force and 
about one-third of its unionized work force.  Yet the law 
discriminates against foreign workers by permitting them to 
join unions only after 5 years of residency and only as 
nonvoting members.  Unlike union members who are citizens, 
foreign workers do not have the right to elect their 
leadership.  The law requires that union officials must be 
citizens.  The ILO has criticized the 5-year residency 
requirement and the denial of voting rights for foreign workers.

KTUF administers an Expatriate Labor Office which is authorized 
to investigate complaints of foreign laborers and provides them 
with free legal advice.  Any foreign worker may submit a 
grievance to the Labor Office, regardless of union status.

The law limits the right to strike.  It requires that all labor 
disputes must be referred to compulsory arbitration if labor 
and management cannot reach a solution (see Section 6.b.).  The 
law does not have any provision guaranteeing strikers that they 
will be free from any legal or administrative action taken 
against them by the State.

Two strikes occurred in 1994, by cleaning personnel in the 
school system for a pay raise, and by security guards at the 
Social Welfare Home to collect unpaid wages.  The majority of 
the strikers were foreign workers.

The KTUF belongs to the International Confederation of Arab 
Trade Unions and the formerly Soviet-controlled World 
Federation of Trade Unions.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively, 
subject to the restrictions cited above.  These rights have 
been incorporated in the Labor Law and have, according to all 
reports, been respected in practice.

The Labor Law provides for direct negotiations between 
employers and "laborers or their representatives" in the 
private sector.  Most agreements are resolved in such 
negotiations; if not, either party may petition the Ministry of 
Social Affairs and Labor for mediation.  If mediation fails, 
the dispute is referred to a labor arbitration board composed 
of officials from the High Court of Appeals, the Attorney 
General's office, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.

The Civil Service Law has no provision for collective 
bargaining between government workers and their employers.  
Technically, wages and conditions of employment for civil 
service workers are established by the Government, but in 
practice, the Government sets the benefit scales after 
conducting informal meetings with officials from the civil 
service unions.  Union officials resolve most issues at the 
working level and have regular access to senior officials.

The Labor Law prohibits antiunion discrimination.  Any worker 
who alleges antiunion discrimination has the right to appeal to 
the judiciary.  There were no reports of discrimination against 
union or nonunion employees.  Employers found guilty of 
antiunion discrimination must reinstate workers fired for union 

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced labor "except in cases 
specified by law for national emergency and with just 
remuneration."  Nonetheless, there have been credible reports 
that foreign nationals employed as domestic servants have been 
denied exit visas if they seek them without their employers' 

Foreign workers may not change their employment without 
permission from their original sponsors.  Domestic servants are 
particularly vulnerable to abuses because they are not 
protected by the Labor Law.  In many cases employers exercise 
some control over their servants by holding their passports, 
although the Government prohibits this practice and has acted 
to retrieve passports of maids involved in disputes.

By law domestic servants who run away from their employers may 
be treated as criminals.  In some reported cases, employers 
illegally withheld wages from domestic servants to cover the 
costs involved in bringing them to Kuwait.  The Government has 
done little, if anything, to protect domestics in such cases.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age is 18 years for all forms of work, both 
full- and part-time.  Employers must obtain permits from the 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to employ juveniles 
between the ages of 14 and 18 in certain trades.  Education is 
compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15.  These 
laws are not fully observed in the nonindustrial sector, 
although no instances involving children have been alleged.  
There are an undetermined number of underage foreign maids who 
have given false information regarding their age in order to 
obtain work.  Some small businessmen employ their children on a 
part-time basis, and there have been unconfirmed reports that 
some south Asian domestic servants under 18 falsified their age 
in order to enter Kuwait.

Juveniles may work a maximum of 6 hours a day on the condition 
that they work no more than 4 consecutive hours followed by a 
1-hour rest period.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for 
enforcing all labor laws.  There is no legal minimum wage in 
the private sector.  In 1994 the minimum wage in the public 
sector, administratively set by the Government, was 
approximately $630 a month (180 dinars) for citizens and $315 a 
month (90 dinars) for noncitizens.

The Labor Law establishes general conditions of work for both 
the public and the private sectors, with the oil industry 
treated separately.  The Civil Service Law also prescribes 
additional conditions for the public sector.  Labor law limits 
the standard workweek to 48 hours with 1 full day of rest per 
week, provides for a minimum of 14 workdays of leave each year, 
and establishes a compensation schedule for industrial 
accidents.  Domestic servants, who are specifically excluded 
from the private sector labor law, frequently work hours 
greatly in excess of 48 hours.

The ILO has urged the Government to guarantee the weekly 
24-consecutive-hour rest period to temporary workers employed 
for a period of less than 6 months and workers in enterprises 
employing fewer than five persons.  The law governing in the 
oil industry provides for a 40-hour workweek, 30 days of annual 
leave, and sick leave.  Laws establishing work conditions are 
not always applied uniformly to foreign workers.  The Labor Law 
also provides for employer-provided medical care and 
compensation to workers disabled by injury or disease due to 
job-related causes.  The Law also requires that employers 
provide periodic medical examinations to workers exposed to 
environmental hazards on the job (chemicals, asbestos, etc.).

The Government has issued occupational health and safety 
standards; however, compliance and enforcement are poor, 
especially regarding unskilled foreign laborers.  Employers 
often exploit workers' willingness to accept substandard 
conditions.  Foreign workers, especially unskilled or 
semiskilled south Asian workers, frequently face contractual 
disputes, poor working conditions, and some physical abuse.

Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work 
situations without jeopardy to their continued employment, and 
legal protections exist for workers who file complaints about 
such conditions.  Latest available figures for occupational 
injuries show 798 such occurrences in 1992, primarily in the 
sectors of construction and building, manufacturing, hotels, 
restaurants, and transportation.  To cut accident rates, the 
Government periodically inspects installations to raise 
awareness among workers and employers and ensure that they 
abide by the safety rules, control the pollution resulting from 
certain dangerous industries, train workers who use new 
machines in specialized institutes, and report violations.


[end of document]


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