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Lawmakers pass security cameras, e-crimes laws ; Bedoons – ‘MPs, govt debate over treatment, future’

KUWAIT: The National Assembly yesterday unanimously passed a law giving the government the right to install high-tech surveillance cameras in a bid to boost security against terror threats and prevent crimes. All the 50 members present, voted for the legislation which allows the Interior Ministry to install the security cameras in all public places - and requires all commercial malls, cooperative societies and hotels to install the cameras otherwise face hefty penalties.

Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al- Sabah said the cameras are needed for security authorities to monitor vital installations and improve their capabilities to arrest culprits and criminals.

MPs backed the law amid regional tensions and conflicts but expressed fear that it may be misused by some for blackmail. The Interior Minister assured lawmakers that the law will not be used to infringe on the privacy of people.

During the debate on the law two weeks ago, MPs warned that Kuwait is not protected against terror attacks similar to those that took place in neighboring Saudi Arabia last month. The law stipulates a two-year jail term and a fine of KD 10,000 for those who misuse the law.

MPs also passed the second and final reading of another controversial legislation stipulating a 10-year jail term and a fine of up to KD 50,000 for online crimes especially those related to terrorist organizations. Only 33 MPs backed the law, 12 rejected it, while one lawmaker abstained.

MPs who opposed the law warned that it suppresses public freedoms especially freedom of expression and opinion on social media especially Twitter and Facebook. Justice Minister Yacoub Al-Sane, however, insisted that the law was needed to meet international obligations and assured the house that it is within international standards. Opponents expressed fear that the law is too flexible and can be misused by authorities to crackdown on cyber freedoms. The government denied that penalties in the law were too harsh.

The law stipulates a 10-year jail term and a fine of between KD 20,000 and KD 50,000 for those who launch a website for a terrorist organization or with the intention to carry out terrorist attacks. It also stipulates a series of penalties for a variety of online violations including for comments or tweets.

The Assembly also passed the 2015/2016 budgets for a number of government agencies. During the session, a number of MPs strongly criticized the government for refusing to resolve the problem of stateless people or bedoons. MP Youssef Al-Zalzalah said the problem of bedoons is a snowball that is increasing by the day and urged the Interior Minister to at least resolve their humanitarian demands.

MP Adnan Abdulsamad wondered why the government recruits workers from outside Kuwait - leaving many of the 110,000 bedoons without jobs. He said the plight of bedoons is increasing and they are part of the Kuwaiti social structure as there are cases when two brothers are Kuwaitis and their two other brothers are bedoons while in other cases the father is Kuwaiti while his children are not. He added that the problem of bedoons is a black spot in Kuwait’s white uniform. MP Abdullah Al-Tameemi said authorities deal harshly with bedoons and in an uncivilized and inhumane way.

The Interior Minister denied the claims and said the government is providing them many services and is studying their situation. MP Abdullah Maayouf defended the government and denied that Kuwait is maltreating bedoons. He said that some of them do not deserve to be naturalized because they have damaged their documents to get Kuwaiti citizenship. The Assembly then voted to refer a draft law on bedoons to the Assembly’s human rights committee.

By B Izzak

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This article was published on 16/06/2015