Nationality law

Muna Al Fuzai

More than 50 years after the promulgation of the Kuwaiti constitution and despite us being a modern state, I fully believe there are three fundamental issues that are still controversial in Kuwait until now – the Kuwaiti nationality law, the election law and women’s rights.

Some people may think that this is only an objectionable opinion that lacks support by material evidence, because the nationality law is clear. As is the election law for those who reach the age of 21. We also have a female MP in the National Assembly and a minister in the government, so the three elements have been achieved.

I don’t think this is totally accurate. If this is true, the controversy would not have continued over 50 years, until last week. The election law and women’s right are not the aim of this article today, but the possible changes in the nationality law has sparked a heated debate in the society. The Kuwaiti political scene these days seems a little complicated due to the desire of some MPs in the current parliament to propose a law to amend some provisions of Amiri decree no. 15 of 1959 of the Kuwaiti nationality law.

Naturally, there is great sensitivity over these issues in the Kuwaiti society, which suffers from a large imbalance in the composition of the population, and therefore each category has a personal perspective of their own interests more than the interests of the state, and this is very unfortunate, because we are an urban and civil state. The individual is expected to integrate in the state and not vice versa, and disputes over such issues often raise suspicion, especially at this time and over the circumstances experienced by the Gulf region.

The new parliamentary proposal includes the following: Dual nationality is prohibited and the interior ministry must notify such a person that one of these should be relinquished within a period not exceeding two years from the date of notification. If the time limit ends without the announcement of the choice of one of the two nationalities, an Amiri decree must be issued on the proposal of the interior minister to withdraw the Kuwaiti nationality.

The proposal also includes a request to amend some articles related to the revocation of nationality of those who gained nationality by fraud. The proposal includes the clause that Kuwaiti nationality should be revoked for anyone in the following cases (after it has been confirmed by a final judicial ruling and based on a declaration submitted by the interior minister):

Firstly, if the person enters military service of a foreign country and remains there despite an order issued by the government of Kuwait to leave it. Secondly, if the person works for the benefit of a foreign state which is at a state of war with Kuwait. And finally, if the person joins a body or a group that undermines the regime in Kuwait. According to these incidences, the Kuwaiti nationality should be revoked from the suspect alone.

According to the proposal, the courts have the right to examine decisions issued to withdraw and revoke Kuwaiti nationality. Perhaps the most important point here is that it clearly targets restricting the authority of the cabinet minister in withdrawing and revoking nationalities, and subjects it fully to the judicial authority. But as a Kuwait citizen, I have my concerns. According to some press reports, the government has reservations regarding the proposal of the role of the judicial power on this.

Such action will lead to the inability of the executive authority to remove the person from the place where he works, and they can continue to harm the country’s interests. Also, this may involve depletion of government funds unlawfully and litigation may take years in courts, as well as the possibility of the expiration of the case or the death of the perpetrator. These are eligible concerns.

The government is concerned over notifying every Kuwaiti citizen who has acquired another nationality by declaring the lawsuit in the newspapers, specifying the time and waiting for the expiry of the period stipulated in the declaration, then the publication in the official gazette, and then issuing an Amiri order for losing the Kuwaiti nationality, because the proposal puts many burdens on the ministry of interior and encourages people to acquire a new nationality in the hope that it will not be discovered. This is true, so the issue of lying and cheating will not be resolved.

I agree that everyone has to respect the verdicts of the judiciary, but I am in favor of the state opinion that the issue of nationality is a sovereign right of the country. It should not be left to any party in granting or withdrawing it. After all, let’s not ignore that the procedures of litigation in courts are slow and this may threaten or harm the society and people’s interests. The case may last years in court.

I believe the decision to grant or revoke nationality is a state authority, so we need to be careful. There seems to be a lot of anxiety and fear of allowing such amendments in a vital case affecting the future of Kuwait. I support the government’s reservations, and the law of nationality should be handled with extra care.

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