8 reasons for Kuwait to reject the GCC Security Agreement

"GCC Security Agrement" by Mahr Rashwan for Aljareeda Newspaper

“GCC Security Agrement” by Mahr Rashwan for Aljareeda Newspaper

 

  1. Article 1 and article 14 of the agreement contradict each other; the first ensures countries execute the agreement in accordance to each country’s laws and constitutions while the later awards governments the full powers put mechanisms required to execute the agreement. The two articles attempt to circumvent the constitution; if the agreement is unconstitutional how can it give the government the power to execute it?
  2. Articles 2 states that States Parties cooperate to hunt down system outlaws and wanted and take necessary action against them. Without defining “system” “outlaws” or “wanted”
  3. Article 3 of the Agreement states “signatories must take legal action…against the intervention of citizens or residents in the internal affairs of any of the other States Parties,” which conflicts with articles 36 and 37 of the Kuwaiti Constitution which guarantee the freedom of expression (speech) and the freedom of the press.
  4. Article 4 allows for signatories to share the personal police and state security records of their citizens and residents upon the request of any signatory nation
  5. Article 10 states “States Parties, collectively or bilaterally, provide support and assistance in case of a request by any State Party shall, in order to meet security disturbances and disasters.” According to Former MP Adel Al-Sar’awi, this Article was added following the uprising in Bahrain, when the government asked for assistance in an “internal” issue and Kuwait declined to assist citing the Defense agreement was limited to “external” threats
  6. Article 11 allows (on a case by case bases) for the presence of one signatory’s officials at the stage of collecting evidence in crimes that occurred in another signatory’s territory and are relevant to its security.
  7. Articles 14 & 15 of the agreement allows for Emergency Services (including police) of one signatory to cross the borders of another signatory (up to a agreed upon point); thus violating the principle of National Sovereignty (and Article 1 of the Kuwaiti constitution)
  8. Article 16 “signatories are required to extradite any persons within its territory accused or convicted by the authorities of any other signatory”. This article conflicts with article 46 of the Kuwaiti constitution which prohibits the extradition of political refugees.

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Sources & Links:

http://www.alqabas.com.kw/node/838790

http://www.alqabas.com.kw/node/838792

GCC Security Agreement- Text (arabic)

Kuwait’s Constitution

 

 

Kuwaiti MP calls on Government to ban Rumi from entry

A member of the Kuwaiti parliament held a press conference yesterday asking the Minister of Interior not to allow Jalal ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi entry into Kuwait for a symposium on his life and poetry. Little did the MP know that the great poet, more commonly known as Rumi, has died 740 years ago. The MP, Mohammad Al-Jabri, then goes on to assure the public that he spoke to the Minister of Information and Islamic Affairs about the issue.

 

Whatever happened to the Arab Spring?

Excellent article by Madawi Al-Rasheed for Al-Monitor:

Three years after the Arab Spring, the dominant narrative about this region remains articulated in terms of binary opposites: vanishing republics versus resilient monarchies, the secular versus Islamist divide and the Sunni versus Shiite schism.

While not denying the violent manifestations of these opposites, it is time to go beyond the apparent multiple polarizations that conceal a fundamental truth, namely the collapse or near-collapse of an old republican and monarchical order without successfully moving toward a new, stable configuration. Even after three years of protest and bloodshed in the republics and low-level mobilization in the monarchies, the Arab world is still far from shaking off the old order or a stable transition toward something that I would call democracy.

The old political order consisted of either militarized governments ruled by the post-colonial nationalist elite or hereditary dynasties that had been fixed in their positions by departing colonial powers. In both republics and monarchies, ruling classes consolidated as a result of achieving military hegemony, monopolizing economic resources, foreign support and a kind of nationalist or religious legitimacy. In practice, no serious structural differences between republics and monarchies were apparent, for both forms of government exercised power without representation, accountability, transparency or equality…

Read the rest of the article at Al-Monitor

Can This Woman Save one of Kuwait’s Oldest Neighborhoods?

I recently boarded a Jazeera Airways flight from Dubai back home to Kuwait, where I picked up a copy of their complementary J Magazine. flipping through the pages, my eyes fall on one article in particular titled Can This Woman Save one of Kuwait’s Oldest Neighborhoods?

The Article interviews Evangelina Simos Ali, a Greek who has called Kuwait home since the seventies, and has been attempting to preserve the beautiful Behbehani Houses in Kuwait City…

I immediately took the details down and contacted the publisher to request to republish. The Publisher was very helpful but unfortunately  could only provide a PDF.

Thanks J Magazine, and Jazeera Airways for shedding light on this story, what is happening to that area and old buildings in Kuwait in general is very saddening…

Enjoy…

Can This Woman Save One of Kuwait's Oldest Neighborhoods?

Can This Woman Save One of Kuwait’s Oldest Neighborhoods?

Islamists in Kuwait face tough choices

On February 5, the judicial courts in Kuwait sentenced three former MPs to three years in jail for criticizing the Emir, the country’s ruler. The Emir’s person is constitutionally immune and inviolable and thus cannot be criticized.

The three MPs belong to the opposition, which due to the fact that political parties are banned in Kuwait is hard to define. Following the February 2012 elections, a group of 32 MPs assembled the Majority Bloc, the largest bloc (numbers-wise) in the history of Kuwait’s parliament. The block had difficulties organizing itself given the absence of a clear goal or agenda, but its members did manage to stick together as an opposition to the government.

The largest group in the opposition is the Islamists. Both members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabi-influenced Salafi Movement had a sizable presence in the Majority Bloc. However, the opposition’s most vocal member is Musallam Al-Barrak, a member of the Popular Bloc which focuses on anti-corruption and wasteful spending. Musallam along with the three indicted MPs all face possible jail time for criticizing the Emir.

The court’s ruling against the three former MPs has re-energized the opposition which was slowly dying out. Following the Emir’s decision to amend the elections law back in October, some 100,000 individuals (BBC estimate) took to the streets to voice their objection.

Not everyone who took to the streets shared the same ideas. Some considered the amendment an overreach by the Emir, others viewed it as deliberately targeting them. The opposition saw this as an attempt to undermine them, and make it difficult to operate as a group, and therefore decided to call on the people to boycott the elections scheduled for December 1.

The boycott was the opposition’s most successful tactic as it brought voter turnout down to 40%, the lowest in Kuwait’s election history. However, since the elections took place the opposition has failed to execute let alone set a clear agenda. Turnout at rallies and events shrunk significantly, the opposition’s presence in the press was faded out by the newly elected parliament.

The opposition’s main problem is the lack of a founding principle. The Majority Bloc of 32 MPs was very ambiguous in its establishment. It included a majority of Tribal MPs, most with Islamist inclinations, but also some relatively liberal members. At best the Majority Bloc is a reactionary response to a dysfunctional government.

Historically, Islamist MPs have pioneered and engineered many regressive laws that attempt to limit political rights and civil liberties. Most notably, the Islamist MPs voted against women suffrage in 2004. They also called on a curfew on some women jobs as well as successfully segregating the Kuwait University campus on gender basis. More recently, the Islamist MPs have objected strongly to entrance of musicians and academics who they don’t agree with into Kuwait. Islamists also sought to limit free speech by calling for government monitoring of Shia Mosques as well as an expansion the list of those immune to criticism.

Many of the Islamist MPs saw the Majority Bloc as an opportunity to push a constitutional amendment for Sharia’ Law. The Islamists used the bloc to pass a law putting those who commit blasphemy to death. Furthermore, they attempted to amend the constitution’s 2ndand 79tharticles to make laws Sharia’ compliant.

Two out of the three MPs that have been sentenced are Islamists, while the third also voted in favor of the blasphemy law. Since the first protest in October, Islamists have found it hard to talk about free speech and free assembly. The opposition believes they are being persecuted for their personhood. They have attacked the judicial system and challenged its transparency rather than attacking the regressive laws that restrict free speech, free press and the right to peaceful assembly.

The Islamist MPs have fallen victim to the laws they have helped draft, laws that do not respect the freedom of speech. However, this is not the time to point fingers, as the number of persecuted for thought crimes and peaceful assembly has mushroomed over the past four months in Kuwait. Human Rights Watch puts the number of those being charged with offending the Emir at 25 individuals since October last year.

If Kuwait had a strong secular movement, this would have been its golden opportunity. Kuwait is in dire need of a movement capable of objecting to the imprisonment of Islamist MPs for exercising their right while waving a finger at them for helping draft regressive laws in the first place. The ground is set for the birth of a strong secular rights movement, one that consists of independent men and women who believe the current situation won’t be resolved unless individual rights are granted and stated explicitly in the constitution.

For the time being, we could only hope that the sentence against the three MPs will serve as a realization for them and others like them to review their stance on regulating human rights. As we wait to see what happens next in Kuwait one thing is clear, Islamist will no doubt have to make some choices if they wish to remain relevant in the next chapter.

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For YourMiddleEast

Political Reform in Kuwait?

The Criminal Court in Kuwait acquits 70 activists, including 11 former Members of Parliament, from charges of storming parliament; the decision is one of the most anticipated in Kuwait’s turbulent political climate.

The seeds for Kuwait’s current political stalemate were planted years ago. Continuous gridlock and a series of corruption scandals have resulted in seven parliamentary elections and thirteen cabinet reshuffles in the past seven years. A large corruption scandal linking the former Prime Minister to large unexplained bank deposits into thirteen MP’s accounts, i.e. 26% of the elected parliament, caused public outrage in 2011 resulting with the PM’s removal. The elections that followed resulted in the creation of the Majority Bloc, a group of 34 opposition MPs, representing about 68% of the elected parliament, united under a loose banner of anti-corruption. However, the parliament was dissolved by the judiciary four months later; sparking a renewal of public protests culminating in the Amir’s intervention with a decree revising the election law so as to drastically decrease the probability of a parliamentary opposition coalition being forged.

The protests of the past two years have coincided with protests in other Arab countries, leading many to believe Kuwait was having its own Arab Spring moment. That’s no longer the case, as streets are now calmer and people seem to have moved away from immediate demands of political reform. Though many scares do still remain, public outrage over the past two years resulted in an avalanche of court cases against activists. Most prominent were charges of offending the Emir, participating in rallies/unlicensed crowding and crowding for the purpose of committing a crime.

Offending the Emir

On 2 December 2013, the constitutional court in Kuwait upheld the law penalizing criticism of the Emir. The government has been using article 25 of the National Security Law to send dozens of former MPs, activists and tweeters to court, charging them with offending the Emir. Several defendants’ lawyers challenged the article on the grounds that it conflicts with article 36 of the constitution guaranteeing free speech. The court, however, upheld the law saying it provides necessary protection for the head of state, adding that the Emir should be treated with extreme respect. The constitutional court is the highest court in the country and its decisions are final.

Human rights lawyers were hoping their challenge would overrule the law. The Kuwaiti government has charged dozens of activists with offending the Emir. According to the National Committee to Monitor Violations (NCV), a grassroots group set up by activists, the first two weeks of December alone are set to witness court hearings for more than 30 activists facing the charge. If found guilty, those charged with offending the Emir could face up to five years in jail.

The court’s ruling is a direct violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Kuwait ratified in 1996. The article explicitly states that public figures of the highest authority are legitimately subject to criticism. International watchdog Human Rights Watch called on the Kuwaiti government to scrap “offending the Emir” as a criminal charge earlier this year.

Storming of parliament

The Court has acquitted 70 individuals, including 11 former MPs, facing charges for storming parliament on 15 November 2011. The court based its acquittal on conflicting testimonies by parliament security over whether the protestors stormed the premises or were allowed in.

The sterile opposition is looking to the court’s decision to reinvigorate its base. Now that the defendants were found not guilty, the opposition is going to celebrate its “triumph”. The government would very likely welcome the acquittal as well, as it seeks to avoid any further political escalation or give the opposition room to regain its public support.

The struggle of the past two years has since died out. The opposition itself was born out of abnormal circumstance uniting Islamists, liberals, youth and tribesman under a banner of anti-corruption; it struggled to materialize into anything substantial or long lasting. The period during which the opposition formed the Majority Bloc in parliament is now documented as a period where they tried to pass Sharia Law and sentence blasphemers to death.

The Kuwaiti government is blessed with a mellow populace. In an annual survey of voters’ priorities conducted by the legislator, ‘combating corruption’ has dropped three ranks since last year; ‘housing’ is now everyone’s top priority. Talk about political reform no longer dominates in the same manner it did last year. It could be argued that regional developments and the difficulty in establishing political reform in Arab Spring countries have caused Kuwaitis to steer away from political reform.

Some believe it will be another five years before Kuwait can approach the idea of political reform again. But until then, activists should not be discouraged. Calling for an elected government in a region governed in the purest tribal form is not going to bear fruit overnight. Kuwait’s struggle in the 1950’s for political reform resulted in the most advanced legislator in the region, their struggle in 2005 brought substantial reforms to the election law, including redistricting to reduce the number of electoral districts from 25 to just five, and without a doubt their existing struggle will produce fruit in the near future.

The struggle of the past two years revealed many things to the public. First, it revealed a very public power struggle among members of the royal family. It is argued that the scandal surrounding the former PM and his connection to financial deposits in MPs accounts which triggered the mass protests were actually exposed by a competing member of the royal family. Second, the struggle revealed the shortcomings and loopholes in Kuwaiti law that have led to political clamp down and trials, such as the ones we are witnessing now. In order to push ahead with political reform, these laws must be understood, revised and changed using any method possible. Third, the struggle has shattered stereotypes of society and stripped away the facade of “democracy” that the ruling elite have hid behind for decades. It revealed that those once believed to be liberals were elitist, and that moderates were extremists, and has shown the true colours of a regressive government that has significant international backing.

Kuwait is far from achieving a wholesome democratic system, but it needs to start somewhere. Several issues can precede the elected government which everyone hopes to achieve, including the establishment of political parties as well as the financial independence of the judiciary, to name but a few. Those activists who were acquitted should get a good night’s sleep because tomorrow is the beginning of a new struggle.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” - Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

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For OpenDemocracy

Blame it on the Foreigners

April 29th 2013:

Following the opposition’s boycott of last year’s election and the lowest turnout in election history, the Kuwaiti parliament is fighting hard to establish itself as credible and legitimate. The parliament held special sessions to discuss important issues such as road traffic, deteriorating healthcare, and the country’s unstable balance sheet which is dependent solely on the price of oil. Their conclusion for all these issues is to blame it on the expatriates.

Kuwait is home to 2.6 million expatriates, foreigners who have voluntarily moved here. Kuwaiti nationals make up only a third of the total population, most blue collar and many white collar jobs are handled by the expats. According to the latest government data, non-Kuwaitis make up a staggering 83% of the nation’s labor force. An oil executive jokes about the makeup of the labor force, saying that if Kuwaitis didn’t show up for work oil output won’t be affected.

Nonetheless Kuwait’s newly elected parliament has singled out expatriates as the main cause for traffic congestion, poor healthcare and inflated budgets.

In the past two months, several MPs have put forward draft laws targeted against expats who make up two-thirds of the country’s population. The first was a recommendation by MP Nawaf Al-Fuzai to give priority to Kuwait nationals over expats at healthcare facilities, and although it was brushed off as ridiculous at first, many people were shocked when the ministry of health decided to implement it as policy. It is part of a greater ministry scheme to institute racism, as the government gets ready to tender Kuwait Health Assurance Company, a project that will build three hospitals for expats, thus ultimately segregating healthcare in the country.

During a parliamentary session on reducing vehicle street traffic MPs suggested raising car registration fees and fuel prices on foreigners, meaning that you had to present ID at the gas station. Thankfully, the recommendation didn’t pass.  Another recommendation included deportation of anyone who commits “serious traffic violations.”

However, some other policies targeting foreigners have been put in place. One that already went into effect is the tightening of rules on expats wishing to get a driver’s license, including a requirement that you must be a legal resident for at least two years, have a university degree and earn at least KWD400 (US$1,400) per month. Moreover, in another attempt at combating the demographic imbalance, expats can no longer enter Kuwait on a visitor visa then switch to a working one.

The biggest surprise came from the newly appointed Minister of Social Affairs who said in a statement that Kuwait is looking to lower its expat population by 1 million citizens over the next ten years. Minister Thekra Al-Rasheedi believes her idea is achievable at a rate of 100,000 expat per year.  A committee set up by the minister is looking into possibly setting up quotas based on nationalities, as well as term limits for expats working in Kuwait; low skilled laborers get a 5 year limit, medium skill get 7 and highly skilled get 10 years. Another committee, this one in parliament, is looking into cutting subsidies and introducing VAT on foreigners.

Such comments and proposals have angered many. The Kuwait Trade Union Federation called the government’s approach “random” and “indicates a lack of government.” An unnamed senior official at the Ministry of Social Affairs said that the minister’s statement “lacks clarity’ as the ministry doesn’t have the power to carry out some of what the minister is suggesting, including cancelation of work permits and deportation.

It remains unclear whether an unknown force is pushing a xenophobic agenda or if it’s a series of unrelated acts. Sadly though, it seems that scapegoating the expats for the country’s troubles is the flavor of the month. For politicians, expats are easy targets because they have no political representation, and risk deportation for partaking in any political activity. Back in November 2012, Kuwait deported 20 other Egyptians for “illegal gatherings” as they were members of Egypt’s Constitution Party and celebrated the Islamic New Year.

Thankfully, the new parliament hosts some veteran parliamentarians, like Adnan Abdulsamad, who know a few things about legislation. Dubbed “the voice of the foreigners” by one newspaper, Mr. Abdulsamad spoke critically against the recommendation to remove gas subsidies on foreigners, telling parliament that foreigners already pay for so much that such increases could risk the departure of families from Kuwait. The recommendation didn’t pass, however, xenophobia in the Kuwaiti legislative assembly lives to fight another day.

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For YourMiddleEast

Project: Nation