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New Kuwaiti law on the collection of human DNA threatens scientific collaboration

September 08, 2016

The law requiring compulsory DNA testing of all Kuwaiti residents, as well as of all those visiting the country for whatever purpose, is a serious assault on the right to privacy of individuals, and is also likely to lead to the isolation of Kuwaiti scientific research and researchers, the European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG) said today [Thursday 8 September]. In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers of the State of Kuwait, the Society calls upon the government to amend the law.

According to the Kuwaiti government, the new measure has been introduced to try to tackle the problem of terrorism in the country. It provides for the imposition of a one-year prison term and a fine on those who refuse to provide samples. "Not only does this law constitute a disproportionate response to the problem, but the very existence of such a comprehensive database of human DNA could be dangerous in the future, in the event of hacking or a regime change, for example," said Professor Olaf Horst Rieß, ESHG President.

Another concern for the Society is the potential effect of the compulsory testing of all visitors, including scientists. "We believe that this is likely to lead to the isolation of Kuwaiti research institutions, as visiting scientists may refuse to give samples and therefore will not attend valuable scientific conferences in the country", said Professor Rieß. "The current global challenges in human health and demography must be addressed by all industrialised countries in a collaborative effort."

"We see this new law as a major threat to joint actions in the field of genomic health that involve national European genetic societies, and therefore we request the Kuwait government to reconsider and to amend this law so that human DNA is collected for legal purposes only from individuals suspected of having committed serious crimes," said Professor Martina Cornel, Chair of the ESHG Public and Professional Policy Committee.

European Society of Human Genetics

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