Kuwait’s plans for mandatory DNA database have been cancelled

Health

Personal liberty at stake

YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images

Kuwait has revoked the world’s first law requiring all citizens and visitors to submit samples of their DNA.

Passed in 2015, the law was challenged last year by lawyers in Kuwait. Last week, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that the law violates the constitution’s guarantee of personal liberty.

“We have prevailed,” says Adel AbdulHadi of the firm Adel AbdulHadi & Partners. “I’m proud to have taken a part in this challenge, and very pleased to have worked and succeeded in a case which is of high importance to maintain the principals of privacy and human civil rights.”

Advertisement

The government introduced the law ostensibly to allow identification of potential terrorists, but there were fears that any law mandating collection of DNA from all citizens could be abused. As well as potentially violating the personal privacy of all 3.5 million Kuwaitis and their visitors, it could also reveal unwelcome paternity issues, AbdulHadi’s team argued. Anyone refusing to yield their DNA would have faced up to a year in jail or a large fine.

“If the law had been brought into force, Kuwait would have been the first country in the world to require the compulsory collection of DNA samples from all citizens,” the European Society of Human Genetics said in a statement. “[We] hope that other countries considering going down the same road will take note of this decision.”

Read more: DNA testing firms are cashing in our genes. Should we get a cut?

More on these topics: