KUWAIT: Opposition groups and a liberal lawmaker yesterday strongly rejected attempts by the government to amend the penal code in order to extend detention periods. The so-called parliamentary majority opposition group said in a statement that it has been disturbed by reports that the government wants to extend the detention period in police custody to four days instead of the current 48 hours and raise preventive detention to 21 days instead of four days.

The group, consisting members of the Feb 2012 parliament which was dissolved by court, recalled that the penal code was amended and the detention period shortened in 2012 by that parliament. The statement said that the 2012 amendments were brought about to end illegal practices by police and alleged torture during detention.

The statement called on the Kuwaiti people to oppose any move to change the positive old amendments with new ones to curtail freedoms and rights. The group also said the new move comes at a time when authorities have banned relatives of opposition leader Musallam Al-Barrak, currently serving a two-year term, to visit him. Last week, MP Abdullah Al-Maayouf said that the amendments will be issued in an emergency decree because the National Assembly is in recess. Secretary general of the liberal National Democratic Alliance Bashar Al-Sayegh also criticized the move to introduce the amendment, saying it constitutes a violation of the constitution. He said in a statement that the move to make the amendment through an emergency decree is not in line with the constitution and the government should have either brought the bill before the national assembly before it began the holidays or it can still call the assembly to hold an emergency session to debate it.

Sayegh also criticized the proposed amendments which can extend detention to up to one year pending investigation, saying this violates human rights. Liberal MP Rakan Al-Nasef also said the proposed decree is not urgent and should not be passed through this way when the Assembly is in recess. He said the proposed extension of the detention to up to one year is in itself a punishment without trial and is totally rejected. Meanwhile, MP Ahmad Al-Qudhaibi again criticized Oil Minister Ali Al-Omair about replies he received to questions he had sent to the minister regarding statements made by Omair.

The lawmaker said that Omair’s responses were incomplete and he should have clearly mentioned the names of contractors he had alleged were illegally getting oil contracts. Later, Omair answered back saying that his answers were complete and stated that those names were mentioned in the Audit Bureau report. He also told the lawmaker to use his constitutional tools and stop making unfounded accusations against him

By B Izzak