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Local Lawyers Challenge New Kuwaiti Law Creating Mandatory DNA Database Of All Citizens And Visitors

from the hands-off-my-genome dept

One of the most extraordinary government surveillance projects in the world is being rolled out in Kuwait, and involves creating a mandatory DNA database of all citizens and visitors. An article in New Scientist confirms that the system is now under construction:

The government has already begun to enact the law, collecting samples from people they suspect of having falsely claimed Kuwaiti nationality, as well as members of the police and military. From November, all Kuwaitis wishing to renew passports will have to submit DNA samples, while the country’s embassies around the world have been told to notify potential visitors that they will be required to give a DNA sample upon arrival in the country.

The good news is that a bunch of public-spirited Kuwaiti lawyers are fighting back:

When the law was passed in July last year, Adel AbdulHadi of the Kuwaiti law firm Adel AbdulHadi & Partners and his colleagues began researching and drafting their challenge to it. Their principal argument is that the law violates privacy and human rights provisions in the country’s own constitution, as well as those enshrined in international treaties to which Kuwait is a signatory.

To their credit, the lawyers are funding the challenge themselves, as they feel so strongly that the law should be struck down.

As the article points out, collecting DNA is hardly likely to be a very effective way of deterring would-be terrorists from entering the country. Equally, finding someone’s DNA at the site of a terrorist explosion tells you little: by their very nature, such attacks cause tissues from bombers and victims alike to be scattered widely, making forensic DNA analysis difficult. On the other hand, there is considerable scope for abuse:

DNA samples could be used for other purposes, such as identifying illegal immigrants, or determining paternity in country where adultery is a punishable offence.

The New Scientist article offers no views on how likely it is that the legal challenge will succeed. We can only hope that it does, because once such a system is successfully implemented in one country, others are sure to see it as an example that they can follow.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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