Authority sought to fight human trafficking Get Gitmos out, panel urged

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 22: The Parliament has instructed the Human Rights and Bedoun Affairs Committee to follow up the case of Kuwaiti detainees in Guantanamo Bay Prison and assess the government’s initiatives in securing their release.

This came during the regular session of the Parliament Tuesday to discuss the correspondence and questions on various issues.

The US government is said to have allowed members of the committee to visit Guantanamo to personally look into the situation of the Kuwaiti detainees there and it will submit its report in three months.

The Parliament then approved the request of the committee on the abovementioned assignment but rejected that of the Education Affairs Committee to follow up and discuss all educational issues.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Committee stressed the need for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to intensify its efforts in securing the release of the Kuwaiti detainees in Guantanamo. They urged the government to establish a special foundation for the rehabilitation of the inmates to ensure their immediate release.
During deliberations, the lawmakers criticized the comments made by US officials on the human rights issues in Kuwait. They expressed their disappointment over the US State Department for the detention of the Kuwaiti prisoners — Faiz Al-Kandari and Fauzi Al-Audi — without a trial in violation of human rights which it claims to protect.

MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan called for the immediate release of the two prisoners, adding “At the beginning of his term in 2009, President Barack Obama criticized Guantanamo Prison and promised to close it but until now nothing has been done”.

On the human rights issues in Kuwait, Al-Duwaisan cited reports that some expatriates have been deported without any valid reason. He claimed a number of crimes, such as those related to drugs, are being fabricated against many expatriates who have been deported without resorting to the court.

Al-Duwaisan urged the Human Rights Committee to exert more efforts in following up the human rights violations, while calling on the Interior Ministry to stop violations against the expatriates.

On the other hand, MP Ahmed Al-Mulaifi called on the US government to put the Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantanamo on trial or release them. He argued that detaining the prisoners for a long time without trial is a violation of human rights agreements which the US claims to support.

MP Abdul-Hameed Al-Dashti said no other country spends money on the Guantanamo issue, similar to what Kuwait has been doing, yet the US government still insists on detaining the Kuwaiti inmates without trial. He also accused some parties of exploiting the Guantanamo issue for political gains.

MP Saleh Ashour asserted the Human Rights Committee must tackle other issues like the rights of expatriate workers, maids and Bedouns; not just the Guantanamo prisoners.

On issues concerning education, Ashour said the scholarship and private education systems are in dire need of reforms, considering the school fees exceed KD 3,000 annually. He also emphasized the importance of evaluating the curricula to improve the quality of education.

MP Adel Al-Kharafi stressed the need to intensify security awareness in educational institutions, “because statistics show that youths are involved in more than 80 percent of the crimes.”

MP Yousef Al-Zalzalah believes the committee must also focus on the Bedouns issue which has not been solved upto now, indicating “the international human rights organizations see how we deal with Bedouns and both the government and the parliament have yet to find appropriate solutions”.

On education, Al-Zalzalah said there is something wrong in the educational system. He asked, “Is it logical that our students don’t know how to express love for the country while there is no national training subject in schools?” He also expressed disappointment over the lack of supervision on private schools which usually raise fees without restrictions.

Meanwhile, Minister of Information and State Minister for Youth Affairs Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah confirmed the executive authority is keen on supporting press freedom and enforcing relevant laws against offenders. “The government remains committed to its promise to safeguard and support freedom of the media, as well as enforcing the relevant laws on those proven to have violated the law,” stressed the minister.

Sheikh Salman Al-Sabah made the statement in response to Al-Mulaifi’s queries on the recent closure of Al-Youm satellite television station. Al-Mulaifi unveiled his plan to look into the legality of the closure and ensure “that there is no approach to suppress freedoms.”

“The notion of prevention and detention has become out of date and the minister has notified me that a case in this regard has been filed in court,” said Al-Mulaifi.

However, he praised the Information Minister for replying to his queries in writing and his assurance that “Freedoms won’t be undermined but they must be exercised with responsibility.”

Furthermore, the Parliament approved a request by the Public Prosecution and the Justice Ministry to lift immunity of MP Nabil Al-Fadhel for him to appear before the court and defend himself on charges of press misdemeanor (defamation) leveled against him by former MP Musallam Al-Barrak.

The Parliament also approved decree number 23/2012 on the settlement agreement between Kuwait and Iraq to pay 500 million dollars compensation to Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) for damages caused by the Iraqi invasion in 1990 with a total of 46 votes in favor and only two abstentions.

The Foreign Affairs committee report was also approved, in addition to 14 of 17 international agreements between Kuwait and a number of Arab and other countries. However, the Parliament, upon the request of the committee, agreed to withdraw the remaining three agreements related to money laundering, organized crime and corruption for more study. The report was approved with 39 votes in favor, two against and six abstentions.

Moreover, the 2011/2012 Development Plan bill was approved in its second reading with 39 votes in favor, five against and two abstentions. The bill will be forwarded to the government for approval.
According to Minister of Planning and Development and State Minister for the National Assembly Affairs Rola Dashti, the government will take into consideration all the comments made by the MPs in the previous session once it starts preparing the 2013/2014 development plan.

The Parliament also endorsed a bill on amending the Housing Care Law to allow the private sector to contribute to the construction of housing units on state-owned lands with 34 votes in favor, seven against and seven abstentions.

MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan has submitted a draft law calling for the establishment of an authority to combat human trafficking. He suggested the authority will be under the control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According the bill the responsibilities of the authority shall include the following: issuing bylaws and procedures related to implementing laws concerning human trafficking; preparing reports on measures that have been taken by the state to fight this menace in coordination with the concerned authorities and introducing training and rehabilitation programs to deal with victims of human trafficking.

This is in addition to financial and administrative supervision of centers sheltering the victims, cooperation among various Kuwaiti authorities which are concerned with human trafficking and following up what measures taken on this issue.

The duties of this authority will also include spreading awareness on issues related to human trafficking, participation of concerned authorities in the state in the international conferences and forums related to human trafficking; forming committees to study, organize, prepare and revise legislations related to human trafficking, presenting an annual report to the Cabinet about the authority’s work, filing criminal lawsuits to prevent human trafficking and receiving complaints in this regard.

Furthermore, MPs Ahmed Al-Mulaifi, Masouma Al-Mubarak, Yaqoub Al-Sane, Ahmed Lari and Faisal Al-Kandari have presented a draft law on conflict of interests and general conduct rules.

According the MPs this law is very important to help eliminate corruption in state institutions.
In another development, 10 MPs have presented a request call for a special session on March 21, 2013 to look into the ‘Golden Triangle Law’.

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Nihal Sharaf Arab Times Staff

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