Friday, March 09, 2007

U.S. State Department Human Rights Report on Kuwait

"Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by the Al-Sabah family, with a population of approximately three million, of whom approximately one million are citizens. On January 29, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah became the emir following the January 15 death of Sheikh Jabir Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. The 1962 constitution grants the emir executive authority and authorizes the emir to appoint a Crown Prince as well as a Prime Minister who selects a cabinet for emiri approval. The government and an elected National Assembly share legislative authority. According to the constitution, the emir may dissolve the elected National Assembly by decree, but must call elections within two months. While not technically illegal, the government effectively barred political parties in practice. Although there were reports of vote-buying by the government and certain candidates, the June 29 parliamentary elections were considered generally free and fair by local observers and the press. Unlike in previous years, civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.

"During the year the main human rights abuses included: no right to change the government or to form political parties; unlawful deprivation of life; maltreatment in prisons, including abuse of detainees; incomplete independence of the judiciary; restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion; limits on freedom of movement for certain groups of people; corruption; and trafficking in persons. Serious human rights problems also included the difficult conditions faced by expatriate workers in the domestic and unskilled service sectors, the unresolved status of stateless Arab residents (bidoon), and the unequal rights of women.

"During the year, women voted and ran for office for the first time in the country's history. The government also passed a new press and publications law that may enhance freedom of speech."

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