Kuwait to Change A Mandatory DNA Testing Law

Kuwait to Change A Mandatory DNA Testing Law

On June 2, 2015, the National Assembly of Kuwait, the main governing body of the Middle Eastern country on the Persian Gulf, passed the a law requiring mandatory DNA testing.1 The law, which is the first of its kind in the world, was introduced last year to combat the levels of crime and terrorism, following a bombing which killed 27 citizens.1,2 The test was to be mandatory for all citizens and visitors of the country.1The project has been estimated to cost over $400 million and have serious consequences for those who refused to participate, such as a $33,000 fine and up to a year in jail.3

A senior official in charge of implementing the project stated that the specimens are taken from saliva or drops of blood to match DNA in paternity or criminal cases.1

In response to the public’s disapproval of the perceived lack of privacy, the official said the tests “target non-encrypted genes that are not affected by diseases,” therefore not used to obtain medical information or determining genealogy.1

Despite the managers’ reassurance, the concept of mandatory DNA testing was met with resistance from the public. Many people were concerned the test would be used for ulterior motives, like testing people in order to take away their citizenship or as paternity tests for use in court.3

Since the law was passed, Kuwaiti lawyers have fought against it, saying that it violates the provision of privacy stated in the country’s constitution.2 Adel AbdulHadi, of the law firm Adel AbdulHadi & Partners, argued that the law was similar to “forcing house searches without a warrant” and that it implies that every citizen is viewed as a suspect until proven innocent.2 Derek Scholes, of the American Society of Human Genetics, argued that any disclosure of genetic information should be “entirely voluntary.”2

After an appeal from the emir (the commander and head of state) of Kuwait and numerous legal challenges criticizing the law for being unconstitutional and unlikely to prevent terrorist attacks, the law has been modified so that DNA tests will only be required of suspected criminals and will undergo further review.4

The Parliament’s revised plans have been internationally recognized. Olaf Rieß, the president of the European Society of Human Genetics praised the reversal, saying that the law would have “had negative consequences not just for Kuwaiti society, but also for medical science and research.”3 The court has set December 21, 2016 as the date to investigate the constitutionality of the plan.5



  1. Al-Saadoun, Hanan. “Kuwait set to enforce DNA testing law on all – Officials reassure tests won’t be used to determine genealogy.” Kuwaittimes.net. Published January 23, 2016. http://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/kuwait-to-enforce-dna-testing-law-on-citizens-expats-visitors-tests-wont-be-used-to-determine-genealogy-affect-freedoms/

  2. Coghlan, Andy. “Kuwait Lawyers fight world’s first mandatory DNA sampling laws.” Newscientist.com. Published September 22, 2016. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106835-kuwait-lawyers-fight-worlds-first-mandatory-dna-sampling-law/

  3. Taylor, Adam. “Kuwait plans to create a huge DNA database of residents and visitors. Scientists are appalled.” Washingtonpost.com. Published September 14, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/09/14/kuwait-plans-to-create-a-huge-dna-database-of-resident-and-visitors-scientists-are-appalled/

  4. Coghlan, Andy. “Kuwait to change law forcing all citizens to provide DNA samples.” Newscientist.com. Published October 21, 2016. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2109959-kuwait-to-change-law-forcing-all-citizens-to-provide-dna-samples/

  5. Mcghee, Stephanie. “Kuwait court to look into DNA law on Dec 21.” Kuwaittimes. Published October 18, 2016. http://www.zawya.com/uae/en/story/Kuwait_Court_to_look_into_DNA_law_on_Dec_21-ZAWYA20161018052723/

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