Cablegate: Kuwait Tip Action Plan Review

DE RUEHKU #1251/01 2261344
P 141344Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

B. STATE 79566

1. (U) SUMMARY: During the past sixty days, the GOK has made
progress on G/TIP's Short-Term Action Plan (Ref B). The
Government of Kuwait (GOK) has drafted anti-TIP legislation,
criminalized the withholding of passports, provided concrete
examples of TIP criminal prosecution, authorized the
establishment of a victim shelter, improved overseas visa
issuance procedures, developed methods for identifying TIP
victims, and begun a campaign to raise public awareness of
this important issue. However, due to the country's annual
throttle-back during the torrid summer season, a
corresponding parliamentary recess and the impending month of
Ramadan, the GOK has not yet passed the new anti-TIP
legislation and existing initiatives are likely to advance
slowly in the short term. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Since the release of the 2007 Trafficking in Persons
Report in June, the GOK has implemented a number of the
recommendations outlined in G/TIP's Short-Term Action Plan.
On June 20, the Ministry of Justice completed draft
legislation specifically addressing TIP-related offenses.
This new legislation is comprehensive in scope, and its
definition of TIP conforms to international standards. It
imposes punishments ranging from 15 years imprisonment to the
death penalty for TIP offenses. It clearly addresses
contractual fraud, which will now become a TIP crime under
Kuwaiti law. It also outlines punishments for those who abet
and harbor TIP perpetrators and authorizes the confiscation
of property involved in TIP crimes. The bill grants
jurisdiction over TIP cases to the Attorney General and the
Kuwaiti courts and provides them with authority to remand TIP
victims to medical and social institutions, including a
victim shelter. The National Assembly's Human Rights
Committee will review this legislation when it reconvenes in
late October, but Parliamentary approval may take an
additional three to four months.

3. (SBU) On July 21, the Kuwait Committee to Respond to
International Human Rights Reports presented Post with
examples of criminal prosecutions for seven TIP-related
offenses (Ref A). These cases involved physical and/or
sexual abuse of expatriate workers and each resulted in a
conviction with a fine and/or a jail term. In 2005, the GOK
imprisoned three men for five years and fined them each 1000
dinars (US 3500) for forcing three women into prostitution.
In 2004, the GOK sentenced a man to three years in prison for
detaining his housemaid for 5 months and physically abusing
her. In 2003, the GOK sentenced a police officer to ten
years in prison for rape, and it sentenced his two
accomplices to seven years each in prison.

4. (U) The Kuwait Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor
(MOSAL), and in particular its minister, Shaykh Sabah
Al-Khalid Al Sabah, has taken the lead in coordinating
Kuwait's anti-TIP efforts. On July 18, MOSAL instituted
decree 152, criminalizing the withholding of employee
passports (Ref A). This decree institutes punishments
comparable to other minor infractions of Kuwaiti labor law;
specifically, a warning for the first offense and monetary
fines for subsequent offenses. MOSAL Minister Al Sabah was
instrumental in obtaining Cabinet support for a victim
shelter, which the GOK authorized via Cabinet decree number
562 (Ref A). The GOK has identified a location for the
shelter in Kuwait City and the Ministry of Finance Department
of Government Property has allocated funds for its
establishment. According to MOSAL and the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (MFA), the shelter will house MOSAL social
workers and a medical unit and will provide psychological
services. Legal experts will also offer assistance to TIP
victims. Furthermore, MOSAL produced 12,000 informational
brochures about expatriate worker rights and local labor
conditions and distributed them to recruitment agencies,
Kuwaiti overseas missions and the Kuwait City International
Airport (KCIA). Lastly, MOSAL Minister Al Sabah has
personally appeared in the media to discuss the importance of
human rights and the appropriate treatment of foreign workers.

5. (U) During a meeting on August 8, Saud Al-Saeedi, Second
Secretary with the MFA's Legal Department, said that Kuwait

now requires its overseas missions to issue visas directly to
incoming domestic workers. Domestic workers are required to
appear at the Kuwaiti Embassy, read and sign their labor
contract and personally accept delivery of their employment
visas. The GOK implemented this procedure to remove the
middle man from the visa issuance process, which has
sometimes led to steep recruitment fees and heavy financial

KUWAIT 00001251 002 OF 003

debt for foreign workers prior to arriving in Kuwait.
Al-Saeedi also detailed the GOK's existing procedures for
identifying TIP victims, particularly those subject to
commercial sexual exploitation. He said that police officers
currently receive training in identifying victims of sexual
exploitation. He added that the Ministry of Interior houses
a department which deals with prostitution cases, and members
of this department have received specialized training in
identifying victims of sexual exploitation. Note: These
cases are especially sensitive for Kuwaitis, since the
Kuwaiti sponsors are ultimately responsible for the legal
status of their employees and can incur heavy financial
penalties for any illegal activities in which their domestics
engage. End Note.

6. (U) In addition, the Kuwait Ministry of Islamic Affairs
has taken a keen interest in TIP and has implemented several
anti-TIP initiatives. It has created The National Project
for Domestic Employee Awareness (the Barirah program), which
seeks to reinforce the Islamic values of tolerance and
moderation among Kuwaiti sponsors while at the same time
educating domestic helpers about Kuwaiti values and their
legal rights in Kuwait. Thus far the Barirah program has
produced brochures for distribution at KCIA, domestic labor
agencies, mosques and co-operative societies. These
brochures are printed in Arabic and English, and they include
a hotline and a website for further information. Barirah
eventually plans to print the brochure in seven languages.
Barirah's medium-term objectives include the establishment of
a domestic labor training center, awareness raising via
television programs and magazines, the creation of a social
security fund for foreign workers, and the addition of
domestic labor awareness education in school curricula. Its
most ambitious objective is to host a Domestic Labor
Conference in Kuwait in January 2008, which plans to invite
government agencies, diplomats, labor organizations,
sociologists, human resource specialists, lawyers and

7. (SBU) Post would also like to take this opportunity to
address recent media reports concerning Filipino laborers
allegedly trafficked to Iraq. The media in both Kuwait and
the Philippines have highlighted lurid allegations that the
First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Company in 2006
illegally trafficked Filipino workers to Iraq to work on
constructing the New Embassy Compound (NEC) for the U.S.
government. However, an April 2007 report by the Department
of State's Office of the Inspector General found no evidence
to support such charges. It stated that third country
national (TCN) employees working on the NEC had unrestricted
access to their passports, signed valid labor contracts, and
were receiving timely compensation. It found acceptable
living conditions and no instances of mistreatment among the
TCN population. A separate assessment by the Multi-National
Force - Iraq Inspector General in December 2006 arrived at
exactly the same conclusions - there is no evidence of TIP
among the NEC expatriate labor force. Furthermore, on August
12 First Kuwaiti ran a large, front page declaration in the
Kuwait Times refuting the trafficking allegations.

8. (U) Post also notes that Kuwait's efforts during the past
60 days have occurred during a time when most government
agencies are severely understaffed. The months of July and
August bring extreme heat to Kuwait, and many Kuwaitis
vacation overseas during this time. Parliament recesses and
many ministries nearly cease to function. However, Kuwait
has received our TIP report with serious concern and has
taken important, concrete steps despite the inopportune
timing. More broadly, legislative and institutional change
tends to occur very slowly in Kuwait, often taking several
years; however, the Kuwaitis' accomplishments cited above
have taken place within the space of only a few months. This
rapid pace confirms that the GOK is taking meaningful action
in response to the Short-Term Action Plan recommendations,
and that it is taking the TIP report seriously. The
Department should note, however, that the impending holy
month of Ramadan will likely delay many of the initiatives
enumerated above in the short term. Comment: Post has found
its GOK counterparts to be accessible and reasonably
responsive to its requests for TIP-related information during
this 60-day evaluation period. End Comment.

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