Internet crimes under Kuwait legal authority
In today’s dynamic digital era, platforms like X have profoundly transformed our communication avenues, offering a space for rigorous dialogue. While these platforms enable vibrant discussions, they have also prompted conservative calls for the Ministry of Interior’s oversight, aiming for a discourse in line with our strict legal parameters.
A frequent question often contemplated is: How robustly does the Kuwaiti Constitution champion freedom of speech? Articles 36 and 37 of our Constitution support the freedom of opinion. However, several laws restrict this freedom. It is crucial to highlight that at the heart of any genuine democracy is an unwavering commitment to freedom of opinion. That is why Article 6 of Kuwait’s Constitution solidly establishes a key principle about the nation’s sovereignty, emphasizing an individual’s undeniable right to voice their views, advancing the vision of an enlightened society.
Still, over the past two decades, different government administrations have proposed laws that impact these freedoms. Comparing our standards with Western countries suggests a more limited freedom of expression in Kuwait.
In practice, the Ministry of Interior’s role in overseeing digital communications is increasing. Does its jurisdiction solely rest on formal complaints, or does it also consider factors like societal sensitivities, public sentiment, and media reverberations? While formal complaints are essential for cases of slander or defamation, the digital realm has broadened the spectrum of possible offenses. These range from inciting hostility, questioning societal norms, spreading deceptive narratives, to crossing religious lines. Unfortunately, people in many times face legal consequences for their digital content, even when their statements are truthful and unbiased.
This raises a pivotal question: How should we legally define these digital platforms? Drawing from various judicial precedents, we can view these platforms as public spaces. Therefore, digital communicators, whether they are tweeters or publishers, might encounter legal consequences regardless of where the offense took place. Kuwait’s Cassation Court contends that the Penal Code applies to Kuwaiti citizens who commit offenses overseas. Recognizing the internet’s global reach, the court maintains that, because of its universal access, digital infringements fall under Kuwait’s jurisdiction.
In monitoring these digital platforms, the dedicated Electronic and Cyber Crime Police consistently spot users involved in dubious online activities. These individuals are then directed to the relevant Public Prosecution. The startling discovery of over 3,000 digital offense cases in 2022 highlights the increasing scrutiny of our digital environment.
Navigating the intricate landscape of digital freedoms in Kuwait is challenging. As Kuwait delves deeper into the digital age, the endeavor to balance the promotion of expressive freedom with upholding national values becomes more critical. This challenge resembles a fine balancing act, demanding a consistent move towards more freedom and reduced censorship.
By Dr. Fawaz Khaled Alkhateeb
Attorney and Visiting Assistant Professor at Kuwait International Law School