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DNA Conundrum

Muna Al-Fuzai

Muna Al-Fuzai

Kuwait will adopt a new law requiring everyone’s genetic fingerprints to combat terrorism after the National Assembly referred this law to the government.

The DNA law will be mandatory on all Kuwaitis, expats and visitors. The proposed law will punish those who refuse to give a DNA sample without an excuse with a year in prison or a fine of KD 10,000 ($33,000) or both, and seven years in prison for those who give false samples.

DNA plays an important role in our lives today and is a significant tool in criminal evidence, especially in cases of verifying the identity of unidentified bodies after accidents and mass disasters.

The aim of the law is to facilitate the collection of evidence for the detection of crimes, identify perpetrators and unidentified bodies and other procedures.

The law is supposed to help security forces carry out arrests in the framework of criminal investigations, create a genetics database at the ministry of interior and save the resulting bio-samples containing DNA.

This is alright, but I wonder how this law will be implemented on the population of Kuwait and visitors too! Kuwaiti citizens number 1.3 million while 2.9 million expatriates reside in Kuwait.

European countries regularly use DNA testing in criminal prosecutions, particularly in cases of murder. But because of potential conflict in European legislation regarding the possibility of misuse of DNA, specific requirements have been set for the use of DNA by official parties and for specific needs.

Also, the DNA samples should not be taken for scientific or experiment purposes. These limitations were set to ensure the protection of individuals’ privacy and civil rights. DNA analysis is widely used in European courts, but some Islamic countries are hesitant to use DNA in genealogy cases.

The Kuwait Institute for Judicial Studies held a symposium on the subject of DNA and lineage in 2013. The gathering discussed the importance of DNA and its incompatibility sometimes with the principles of Islamic law. The participants agreed that there is no problem in the use of this technology in solving crimes like rape and murder, but there can be problems when it comes to paternity.

For instance it may expose children born out of wedlock or infidelity on the part of either parent. The complete application of DNA analysis may throw up such issues.

Another key point is over the legality to issue a law to force everyone to take a DNA test to create a database, as announced by interior ministry officials. I agree the use of DNA analysis is essential in criminal cases, but the dilemma is over genealogical issues.

The Kuwaiti judiciary has in the past included in a number of its provisions the inadmissibility of forcing the father to take a DNA test, because such an examination may constitute coercion, may not be subject to an individual’s own will as an inviolable human being including parts of his body or cells without his consent.

The question remains whether this law which will include everyone would be considered a violation of human rights by making it a compulsory law and not a decision that is subject to a person’s approval. Time will tell. I also wonder how this test will be applied and which laboratory will carry out such a huge mission. This task will take some time and needs a huge media campaign to make everyone aware of it.

By Muna Al-Fuzai

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This article was published on 04/07/2015