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Thursday , August 18 2022

Blanket DNA tests breach of human rights – ‘Tourism, business to suffer’

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KUWAIT CITY, Oct 5: As the news of mandatory DNA testing continues to dominate headlines in Kuwait, readers weighed in on the issue in this week’s online poll. The majority of respondents see the forcible collection of DNA samples as a clear violation of human rights.

In the wake of the bombing of Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque on June 26, 2015, Kuwait’s lawmakers urged by the Ministry of Interior saw fit to ratify a law ordering every citizen, expatriate and even those visiting the country to submit a DNA sample as a way of protecting the country from terrorist attacks. Those unwilling to comply would face severe penalties.

Since then, the law has sparked outrage both in Kuwait and from various groups and delegations internationally. The law has even been legally challenged in the constitutional court.

Earlier this summer, a U.N. human rights watchdog called on Kuwait to amend this law deeming it disproportionate and a violation of the right to privacy.

The panel of experts had shared that any testing should be limited to individuals suspected of having committed serious crimes and only after a court order.

38% of those who participated in the poll felt that the law was a clear violation of human rights. “The government, in trying to enhance national security, should not forget that it also has the duty to protect the privacy of all those who reside in Kuwait. There is no reason for us to believe that individual privacy is a small concession in light of national security”, a respondent commented. Another pointed out that the law would seriously damage Kuwait’s reputation in the world. “We cannot project ourselves as civil pioneers in the region, flaunt our democratic values, political system and humanitarian efforts and then force everyone residing or visiting here to provide a DNA sample. It is very incongruous with who we have historically been as a people. We cannot turn ourselves into a police state.”

11% of voters were afraid that DNA samples collected could be used for other hidden agendas and another 18% shared their fears that DNA results may be misused as things work with ‘wasta’ in Kuwait.

7% of respondents felt that the DNA data will be used to target those who have obtained Kuwaiti citizenship through dishonest means. “The risk of data abuse is potentially high. DNA samples contain a lot of information that could be exploited for genetic research. How can we be sure of what happens to it and how it is used?”, a worried citizen shared.

Despite many assurances made by the MOI with regards to safeguarding of the DNA data, a large number are concerned that it may be used as a means of verification to restrict access to and reverse citizenship. 18% felt that compulsory DNA testing was necessary due to the increase in terror activities while 7% of respondents shared that terrorists who want to bomb don’t care about DNA. “I think this law is necessary if it will help catch terrorists and stop attacks. We talk a lot about privacy and then reveal everything to the whole world on social media”, a voter opined.

On the other hand, a concerned reader stated, “There is no hard evidence to support that more crimes would be solved if a compulsory national DNA database includes innocent people who have not previously been convicted of a crime. I don’t think this very grave matter is getting the attention it deserves. No one is discussing the possibility of partial and false matches that may implicate innocent people.” Others pointed that Kuwait’s tourism industry and businesses would suffer on the implementation of this law as tourists and business executives would not be willing to give DNA samples upon arrival.

By Cinatra Fernandes Arab Times Staff

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