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Fri 24 Jul 2015 01:14 AM

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Rights group urges Kuwait to rethink new DNA testing law

Human Rights Watch claims new legislation violates the right to personal privacy and should be amended

Rights group urges Kuwait to rethink new DNA testing law

A new law requiring all Kuwaiti citizens and residents to provide DNA samples to the authorities violates the right to personal privacy and should be promptly amended, according to an international rights group.

Kuwait’s National Assembly introduced the requirement as part of a new counterterrorism law earlier this month, making Kuwait the only country to require nationwide compulsory DNA testing, said US-based Human Rights Watch in a statement.

The approval of the new counterterror law and its earmarked $400 million in “emergency funding” is a response by the Kuwaiti National Assembly to the June suicide bombing of the Imam Sadiq Mosque, which killed 27 people and wounded 227.

“Many measures could potentially be useful in protecting against terrorist attacks, but potential usefulness is not enough to justify a massive infringement on human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director.

“I suppose videotaping every user of a public toilet could be useful too, but that kind of intrusion is hardly necessary or proportionate, and neither is compulsory DNA testing.”

The mandatory DNA collection law will require all Kuwaiti citizens, foreign residents, and temporary visitors to submit DNA samples to a database that will be maintained and operated by the Interior Ministry.

The law, which will affect all 1.3 million Kuwaiti citizens and 2.9 million foreign residents, imposes a penalty of one year in prison and up to $33,000 in fines for anyone who refuses to provide DNA samples. Under the law, anyone found providing fake DNA samples can face up to seven years in prison.

“We have approved the DNA testing law and approved the additional funding,” National Assembly Member Jamal al-Omar said. “We are prepared to approve anything needed to boost security measures in the country.”

“It’s not even clear whether DNA testing would be especially useful, given the many other types of information on suspects already in police databases,” Whitson said. “And what guarantee could the government give that this sensitive data would never be breached by third parties?”

Human Rights Watch claimed DNA gathering systems like the one Kuwait has written into law have been outlawed on the grounds of privacy rights under various legal regimes.