What constitutes a crime varies from one country to another, and what might be a social norm in one country can be a serious crime in another. Therefore, it is important to explain crimes punishable under Kuwaiti law to the large expat community living here.
I usually refrain from writing about criminal laws in Kuwait, because controversial topics such as sexual crimes, drug trafficking, stealing and so on are usually avoided by my readers and those who write to me. Even when I do discuss such topics with them, they tend to use fake names or refer to the situation as if it happened to a third party.
I am writing today though because I really do believe that such topics should be discussed. We all make mistakes and we are all capable of getting into trouble with the law – it is not for anyone to judge another person’s actions. I also believe that the law should be accessible to everyone. We should learn to discuss things more openly in Kuwait and we should acknowledge that mistakes do happen, by all parties. So today I have chosen questions about criminal laws that may be more beneficial to an expat readership, and this is because I know the majority of my readers are expats.
Question: Can I get deported for a crime?
Fajer: Yes, you can get deported for a crime. This is the most important question – please understand that deportation has been an option for government officials for expats who violate the law. It doesn’t even have to be a serious crime for you to be deported – it could be immigration issues as well, such as your residency expiring.
Question: If so, what happens before I get deported?
Fajer: There are two types of deportation – administrative and judicial. I don’t want to complicate things, so I won’t get into details, but I will explain what happens, for let’s say, having an expired residency or if an absconding case was filed against you. You will be taken to the police station and then transferred to a jail. You will be kept there for a few days until a ticket is booked for you to go back to your country. If you are deported, you will be banned from entering Kuwait and possibly the GCC for some time, depending on the reason of deportation.
Question: Is anyone exempt from being deported?
Fajer: Answering this question is complicated, but simply put, other than diplomats, children and husbands of Kuwaiti women are exempt.
Question: I know a lot of European countries have decriminalized cannabis, yet everyone knows that Kuwait is very strict when it comes to cannabis use. I want to know whether it would show up in my blood? How strict is Kuwait? I ask these questions because I am about to get tested for my new job and I am very nervous. I have not smoked in Kuwait, but I did smoke in Europe this summer. Can I still get legally punished?
Fajer: First of all, I cannot say if traces of any drugs will show up in your blood test, because it depends what kind of test has been done, what drugs have you consumed/inhaled and when you did so. This is a very non-legal technical question that I cannot answer.
Drugs in Kuwait by regulations are listed into three categories regarding how serious or harmful the drug is, and therefore the punishments differ according to the category the drug is in under. Cannabis is illegal in Kuwait in accordance to article 208, where a person that uses marijuana for personal use and in private can receive up to two years jail and/or a fine not exceeding KD 2,000.
From my experience, privately tested blood/urine tests for employers are not shared with the public prosecution. Also, if you have smoked cannabis in a country where it is legal, then you have nothing to worry about it, as you can easily prove you were in that country at that time.
There are other criminal issues that expats deal with regularly that I want to discuss in next week’s legal column, and this includes fraudulent companies that use employees’ credit cards to withdraw money as well as absconding. If you have any issues, please feel free to email me.
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed