Controversy over citizenship law as govt forms panel

KUWAIT: The National Assembly is expected to debate today amendments that allow legal recourse when the government revokes citizenship amid a controversy on whether the changes should be expanded. The Cabinet meanwhile formed an independent panel headed by an advisor to HH the Amir and former Assembly Speaker Ali Al-Rashed to look into the process of reinstating citizenship of several opposition figures revoked in the summer of 2014.

The panel comes following a deal to resolve the issue of revoked citizenship after a group of lawmakers visited HH the Amir a few weeks ago and said he has agreed to reinstate the citizenships. It also comes after opposition MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei vowed that he will file to grill the prime minister if the government does not reinstate the citizenship of opposition figures by April 3. Several other MPs have also made a similar threat because of a delay in the process even after the meeting with the Amir.

The panel will study the issues of former MP Abdullah Al-Barghash and around 57 members of his extended family and that of Saad Al-Ajmi, who was deported to Saudi Arabia after his citizenship was revoked. The committee will not look into the case of Ahmad Jabr Al-Shemmari, the former owner of pro-opposition Al-Youm TV, because his case is still in the cassation court, which yesterday set April 3 as the date for issuing its verdict.

The lower and appeals courts both ordered the government to reinstate the citizenship of Shemmari and his children. Two weeks ago, he withdrew the case from the court because of the promise of the Amir, but the government insisted that the court rules that the judiciary is not competent to look into citizenship issues because they are sovereign matters.

The amendment that the Assembly is likely to debate today or tomorrow is to change the administrative court law, stipulating that Kuwaiti courts are authorized to look into revoked citizenship cases. The government has remained against the proposed amendment, insisting that citizenship is a sovereign issue that courts should not be allowed to handle.

MPs are also planning other amendments to the nationality law stipulating that the government is not allowed to revoke any citizenship without a final court ruling. Lawmakers have also proposed other amendments to speed up naturalization of certain groups. The proposed amendments have triggered a controversy among lawmakers themselves, with some social activists intervening in the case.

A group of diwaniyas supported by the government and a few lawmakers strongly opposed any changes to the 1959 nationality law or even the court law, and insisted that citizenship issues must remain entirely in the hands of the government. They said that proposed changes to the nationality law threaten to undermine the composition and identity of the Kuwaiti people.

But a large group of lawmakers have expressed the need to first change the administrative court law, allowing victims of revoked citizenship to seek the help of the judiciary. They also want to press ahead with the amendment to the nationality law that requires a final court verdict before withdrawing any citizenship.

Meanwhile, MP Safa Al-Hashem yesterday threatened to grill the prime minister over the government’s intention to scrap the roads and transport authority two years after its law was passed and even before the authority was formed.

By B Izzak

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