Kuwait DNA law rapped in US daily – Constitutional Court to weigh privacy protections

KUWAIT CITY, Sept 15: The Washington Post, an American newspaper, described Kuwait’s DNA database project as “an idea from a bad science-fiction novel” with an estimated cost of $400 million, reports Al-Jarida daily.

The newspaper quoted geneticist Olaf Riess who argued that the law on DNA is a “huge attack on genetic privacy” which seriously risks Kuwait’s international reputation, adding that “compulsory DNA testing of all citizens and visitors sounds like a nightmare, but this is the new reality in a wealthy Gulf State.”

The daily revealed that various groups and delegations have reached out to Kuwait’s government to cancel the law; indicating the letter of the European Society of Human Genetics, whose current president is Riess, to HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah called for amendment of the law.

Commenting on the issue, constitution expert and lecturer in the College of Law at Kuwait University Dr Muhammad Al-Faili affirmed the DNA Database Law has many constitutional loopholes, the most important of which is limiting the right to choose whether to undergo DNA sampling or not; let alone allowing procedures that violate the right to privacy.

Al-Faili stated the constitutional judge will deliberate on the matter once it is presented to the court to balance between protection of the right and breaching the right for security purposes. He explained the judge will look into existing guarantees that protect personal privacy, determine risks of violating privacy, present a verdict from the European Court for Human Rights which ruled that storing the DNA of innocent people is a violation of their rights and their privacy – the ruling that led Britain to change its policy in storing DNA samples.

The daily said Kuwait’s tourism industry and business will suffer, given that no tourist or business executive would want to spend their time in a country which takes their DNA samples upon arrival, indicating the law will have a major impact on Kuwait as a host of conferences and hinder tourism.

After the bombing of Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in June 2015, Kuwait’s Parliament ratified a law obliging every citizen, expatriate and anyone visiting the country to submit a sample of their DNA.

The Ministry of Interior considers the creation of DNA database for citizens and expatriates a way of protecting the country from terrorist attacks, while the new e-passports will be issued to citizens only if they submit their DNA samples.

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