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The Ministry of Interior’s recent directive, necessitating every foreign resident in Kuwait to clear outstanding traffic violations before exiting the country, has spurred a wave of legal and constitutional dialogues. Effective August 19, 2023, this decision is anchored in the provisions of Decree No. (1959/17) related to the Foreigners Residency Law and Decree Law No. (1976/67) concerning traffic.
At first glance, the initiative seems a straightforward move to recover state dues. However, it unearths a plethora of legal and constitutional difficulties. Freedom of movement, a sacred constitutional right, now seems entwined with traffic violation clearance. A scrutiny of the invoked decrees reveals neither grants explicit authority to restrict exit based on these infringements.
The regulation raises questions about an individual’s right to selfdefence, particularly when disagreements emerge over fines. A sturdy legal system offers its members the right to challenge and defend. Genuine debt recovery should be commanded through legitimate channels like judicial verdicts or formal orders from investigative bodies.
Another crucial aspect is the just application of laws. Article 29 of our Constitution mandates unbiased, uniform law application. Traffic indiscretions, being commonplace, are not bound by nationality or residency. Policies hinging on nationality risk bordering on discrimination.
The potential fallout from such a policy is significant. Kuwait’s esteemed reputation as a humanitarian state might be jeopardised by perceived differential treatment. The economic and social tapestry of Kuwait, intertwined with the mobility of its residents, could be adversely affected. Hindrances to this fluidity might inadvertently deter the progress of sectors reliant on this movement.
In conclusion, while the intent behind the directive might lean towards administrative efficacy and fiscal consolidation, it is vital to operate within a lucid, equitable, and transparent legal ambit. Striking a balance between state priorities and individual liberties, though challenging, is imperative. It ensures the ethos of justice, equality, and movement freedom remains inviolate, reflecting the notions of Article 7 of Kuwait’s Constitution.
By Dr. Fawaz Khaled Alkhateeb
Attorney and Visiting Professor at Kuwait International Law School