Kuwait Forces Mandatory DNA Testing

In the days following terrorist attacks in Kuwait, Tunisia, and France, the Kuwaiti government passed a new law that requires all residents of Kuwait to submit to DNA testing.  That number includes some 1.9 million citizens and 2.9 million foreign residents.  Failing to comply with the new law could mean a year in jail and $33,000 fine.  Those who provide false DNA samples face up to seven years in prison.  Unless the law is quickly amended the privacy rights of millions are at risk.

Kuwait fingerprint

It’s hard to blame the Kuwaiti government for wanting to take action after the Islamic State terrorist bombing.  The problem is that the actions taken can not be reversed.  If the government moves forward and forces millions of citizens to submit to DNA testing the database containing that information could very well be made public in the future.  It has happened time and time again.  Not only do citizens and foreign residents expose their most private information to the Kuwaiti government, but they also have to worry about how it may be used by others in the future.

Citizens around the world are learning what the impact can be when you choose to trade your privacy for a heightened sense of security.  Whether or not you are truly more secure is often overshadowed by the very real privacy implications of actions like the new Kuwaiti law that requires DNA testing.  Courts in the United States and Europe have outlawed similar DNA testing based on the privacy implications.  Human Rights Watch and other privacy organizations continue to push for privacy rights.  If Kuwait fails to amend the law the country will take a big step backward in hopes of stemming future terrorist attacks.

The requirement for DNA testing is part of a new counter terrorism law passed by the National Assembly in Kuwait on July 1st.  That law was passed less than a week after the Islamic State terrorist attack on the Imam Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait that killed 27 and wounded 227.  As Sarah Leah Whitson, the Executive Director for Human Rights Watch in the Middle East said in response to the new DNA law, “many measures could potentially be useful in protecting against terrorist attacks, but potential usefulness is not enough to justify a massive infringement on human rights,” and “I suppose videotaping every user of a public toilet could be useful too, but that kind of intrusion is hardly necessary or proportionate, and neither is compulsory DNA testing.”  Can privacy groups help amend the new law?

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