State of Kuwait (Kuwait)

Official Country Name

State of Kuwait (Kuwait).

Geographical Region

Asia (Western Asia).

Language(s)

Arabic.

Population

3,520,000.

Retentionist or Abolitionist De Facto

Retentionist.

Year of Last Known Execution

2017.

Methods of Execution

Hanging.

Executions can be carried out by hanging.

Shooting.

Execution by shooting is by firing squad.

Number of Individuals On Death Row

Approximately 54.

The last available figure for death row dates to the end of 2015, when there were at least 11 death-sentenced prisoners. Since then, there have been a total of 98 new death sentences (34 in 2018, 15 in 2017, 49 in 2016 ), 36 commutations (14 in 2018, 17 in 2017, five in 2016 ), ten exonerations (three in 2018, two in 2017, five in 2016 ), two pardons in 2018, and seven executions in 2017. We therefore estimate there are around 54 people on death row.

(This question was last updated on May 30, 2019.).

Annual Number of Reported Executions in Last Decade

Executions in 2022

7.

Executions in 2021

0.

Executions in 2020

0.

Executions in 2019

0.

Executions in 2018

0.

Executions in 2017

7.

Executions in 2016

0.

Executions in 2015

0.

Executions in 2014

0.

Executions in 2013

5.

Executions in 2012

0.

Executions in 2011

0.

Executions in 2010

0.

Executions in 2009

0.

Executions in 2008

0.

Executions in 2007

1.

Is there an official moratorium on executions?

There may be an unofficial moratorium in place; however, Kuwait did not support the Human Rights Council’s 2010 recommendation that it continue the de facto moratorium.

Does the country’s constitution mention capital punishment?

Kuwait’s Constitution provides that “[no] person shall be subjected to torture or to degrading treatment,” but does not specifically address capital punishment or a right to life.

Offenses Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder.

Intentional murder by laying in wait, or planned murder is punished by death. The intentional killing of a public official carrying out his duties under the narcotic laws is punishable by death.

Murder.

Premeditated murder “is punished by death.”

Other Offenses Resulting in Death.

A number of offenses resulting in death are punishable by death. Torture of an accused, a witness or expert, by a public servant and resulting in death, “shall be” punished by death. Giving false witness, resulting in execution, is punishable by death or life imprisonment. For piracy resulting in death, the punishment “will be death.” The punishment “shall be death” for attacking or resisting drug law enforcement or public servant carrying out his duties under the drug laws, resulting in death.

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.

Attacks on or interference with transportation or communications, with the goal of harming people or property, resulting in death is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Anyone who uses explosives with the goal of killing, spreading fear or destroying certain sites “shall be punished by death.” Buildings or utilities belonging to the government or to groups in which there is government ownership or a public interest, places of worship, areas where masses of people have gathered, or residential buildings are among those sites covered by the law.

Terrorism-Related Offenses Not Resulting in Death.

Anyone who uses or plans to use explosives with the goal of killing, spreading fear or destroying certain sites “shall be punished by death.” Buildings or utilities belonging to the government or to groups in which there is government ownership or a public interest, places of worship, areas where masses of people have gathered, or residential buildings are among those sites covered by the law.

Rape Not Resulting in Death.

Intercourse by force, threat or deception is punishable by death; rape carries the death penalty when by a relation, guardian or servant. Statutory rape of a woman unable to consent because she is mentally incapacitated carries the death penalty when carried out by a relation, guardian or servant. Statutory rape of a girl under the age of 16 carries the death penalty when carried out by a relation, guardian or servant.

Kidnapping Not Resulting in Death.

Kidnapping by force, with the intent to kill, harm, engage in sex, disgrace the victim, force the victim into prostitution, or extort something from the victim or another party “shall be punished by death.”

Drug Trafficking Not Resulting in Death.

Treason.

Drug trafficking “shall be punished by death or life imprisonment,” the penalty “shall be death” for recidivists, public officials, those who use individuals under the age of 18 in carrying out an offense, if the criminal has created a criminal organization, or as specified for certain drugs in a schedule to the law.

Espionage.

Waging or inciting war against Kuwait, undermining the defense, disclosing state secrets or assaulting the Emir or high officials, “shall be punished by death.”

Military Offenses Not Resulting in Death.

Some betrayal of military information or state secrets “shall be punished by death.”

Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.

A number of military offenses of Kuwaiti personnel are death-eligible under some circumstances, such as cowardice, dereliction of duty, insubordination, insurrection, disclosing secrets, assisting the enemy, undermining the defense, and some humanitarian violations and offenses set out in the Penal Code. Enemy soldiers can be punished by death for operating in disguise or violating international law.

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

Under Article 83 of the Penal Code, if the circumstances of the crime or facts about the offender (such as his past, character or age) call for leniency, an individual may be sentenced to a term of years; the law does not restrict the application of this discretion. Thus, for most offenses, the death penalty is not mandatory in Kuwait. However, Kuwait’s anti-terrorism law prohibits application of mitigation for terrorism resulting in death. Some sources list the death penalty as mandatory for drug trafficking, but we did not find a similar provision in the drug laws excluding the consideration of mitigating circumstances.

Some sources list the death penalty as mandatory for drug trafficking, but—in contrast to the anti-terrorism law—we did not find a provision in the drug laws excluding the consideration of mitigating circumstances.

Reports indicate that Kuwaiti courts, in exercising discretion, can be influenced by a payment of blood money compensation to a victim’s family, but the law does not state that courts cannot exercise discretion if there is no such settlement. A discussion on the web page of the Embassy of the Philippines indicates that courts follow a Shari’a practices in sentencing for premeditated murder, which could include applying a mandatory death penalty in absence of a settlement with the victim’s family.

Which offenses carry a mandatory death sentence, if any?

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.

Terrorist attacks using explosives and resulting in death carry the mandatory death penalty.

Comments.

Reports indicate that Kuwaiti courts, in exercising discretion, can be influenced by a payment of blood money compensation to a victim’s family, but the law does not state that courts cannot exercise discretion if there is no such settlement. A discussion on the web page of the Embassy of the Philippines indicates that courts follow a Shari’a practices in sentencing for premeditated murder, which could include applying a mandatory death penalty in absence of a settlement with the victim’s family.

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty

Individuals Below Age 18 at Time of Crime.

Article 20 of the Penal Code prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed while under the age of 18. Kuwait has acceded to ICCPR and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which also prohibit this practice."

Pregnant Women.

A pregnant woman who gives birth to a live child will have her death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Kuwait has acceded to the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which also prohibits the execution of pregnant women.

Women With Small Children.

Reporting before the U.N. Human Rights Council indicates that the death penalty is not applied to new mothers. This could be the result of a related law prohibiting the death penalty for a pregnant woman who gives birth to a live child. Also, Kuwait has acceded to the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which prohibits the execution of nursing mothers.

Mentally Ill.

Proceedings may be suspended for individuals who are mentally unfit to stand trial. A court may find that a defendant has diminished responsibility due to mental illness at the time of the offense, or may acquit the defendant. There is no indication, however, that the law prohibits the execution of individuals who have become insane while awaiting execution of their death sentence."

Offenses For Which Individuals Have Been Executed In the Last Decade

Murder.

Three men were executed in April 2013 after being convicted of murder.

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

We did not find any published cases concerning the death penalty; however, they may exist in the official Gazette.

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

No.

Article 177 guarantees the continuance of treaties entered into prior to 1962; the Constitution does not otherwise reference international law.

ICCPR

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

ICCPR Party?

Yes.

ICCPR Signed?

No.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

May 21, 1996.

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

ICCPR 1st Protocol Party?

No.

ICCPR 1st Protocol Signed?

No.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

ICCPR 2nd Protocol Party?

No.

ICCPR 2nd Protocol Signed?

No.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

ACHR

American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR)

ACHR Party?

ACHR Signed?

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

DPP to ACHR Party?

DPP to ACHR Signed?

ACHPR

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

ACHPR Party?

ACHPR Signed?

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

ACHPR Women Party?

ACHPR Women Signed?

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

ACHPR Child Party?

ACHPR Child Signed?

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Arab Charter Party?

No.

Arab Charter Signed?

Yes.

Date of Signature

September 18, 2006.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Comments and Decisions of the U.N. Human Rights System

The Human Rights Committee pursuant to periodic review of human rights in Kuwait issued Concluding Observations and Recommendations in 2000; the Committee urged Kuwait to limit the application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes, address the vagueness of the scope of some death-eligible offenses, and assure the right to a fair trial for individuals facing capital charges.

Comments and Decisions of Regional Human Rights Systems

Members of the Human Rights Council pursuant to Universal Periodic Review of human rights in Kuwait made observations and recommendations: Kuwait supported the recommendation that it meet minimum standards in the application of the death penalty, particularly regarding restriction of the death penalty to the most serious crimes; Kuwait did not support recommendations that it establish a moratorium on the death penalty, prolong a moratorium on executions or consider abolishing the death penalty de jure.

Availability of Lawyers for Indigent Defendants at Trial

Yes. The U.S. Department of State reports that bar association attorneys are required to assist indigent defendants when requested by the court and that the defendants used these services. The law indicates that bar association attorneys are required to represent indigent individuals by order of the court and that the court may determine their state-funded compensation and fine attorneys who do not comply.

Availability of Lawyers for Indigent Defendants on Appeal

The U.S. Department of State reports that bar association attorneys are required to assist indigent defendants when requested by the court and that the defendants used these services. The law indicates that bar association attorneys are required to represent indigent individuals by order of the court and that the court may determine their state-funded compensation; our reading of the law is that this might continue until judgment is final.

Quality of Legal Representation

None.

Appellate Process

Serious criminal cases are submitted to a higher court for automatic review. We do not know whether an intermediate Court of Appeal hears a capital case before it proceeds to cassation review by the Supreme Court. A capital defendant might be permitted to petition the Constitutional Court to resolve a question of constitutional law involved in the defendant’s case, or to ask for a review of the earnestness of his defense.

Military courts, which except in times of martial law can adjudicate only as to military crimes committed by military personnel, have a separate system of trial, appeal and cassation.

Capital cases involving terrorism-related offenses that, prior to 1995, fell under the jurisdiction of the State Security Courts (which have now been abolished), are now tried in ordinary criminal courts; they are reviewed by a cassation court but not by the Court of Appeal.

Clemency Process

A death sentence cannot be executed without the approval of the Emir, who without legal restriction may issue a pardon or commute a sentence. Reports indicate that Kuwaiti law follows the practice of reducing sentences for murder offenses in return for blood money compensation paid to a murder victim’s family, and this is an important part of the clemency process. We found a report that the Emir has granted clemency to a condemned individual, indicating that upon a settlement with the victim’s family, he might further reduce the penalty.

Availability of jury trials

No.

Systemic Challenges in the Criminal Justice System

The U.S. Department of State reports that defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to confront their accusers and to appeal. Defendants or their counsel are able to access the evidence against them in preparation for trial.

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

The U.S. Department of State reports that “[t]he Central Prison Complex houses the country''s only three prisons: a low-security men''s prison, a high-security men''s prison, and a women''s prison.”

Description of Prison Conditions

We have found no reports that specifically describe conditions on death row. The U.S. Department of State reports that conditions in general have improved for inmates due to the construction of new prisons in 2006. However, sanitation and lack of sufficient medical staff are problems, as reported by NGOs visiting prison facilities. Also, “authorities reportedly mistreated prisoners and failed to prevent inmate-on-inmate violence.” Prisons are slightly over capacity. Migrants are housed in the separate Talha Deportation Center, which reportedly provides adequate nutrition and medical services. The report does not specify whether migrants are held at this center facing or convicted of capital charges.

Foreign Nationals Known to Be on Death Row

Yes.

Sources report multiple foreign nationals under sentence of death in Kuwait.

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

One researcher reports that Saudi nationals and others are on death row; an Amnesty International report indicates that one Filipina maid may still be on death row (typically, Amnesty would issue an update if her situation had changed); news reports confirm that Filipina workers are currently sentenced to death in Kuwait with some frequency.

Women Known to Be on Death Row

Yes.

On January 25, 2010 Amnesty International issued an urgent action request for letters appealing for clemency on behalf of a Filipina maid whose death sentence was confirmed by the Court of Cassation on January 19, 2010. We found no further information on her status. However, Kuwait pronounces death sentences upon female migrant domestic workers with some regularity, often amid claims that they had been abused by their victims. It should be acknowledged that the Emir has commuted such death sentences on more than one occasion, although we do not know how frequently he intervenes.

Juvenile Offenders Known to Be on Death Row

Kuwait prohibits the pronouncement of death sentences upon individuals for crimes committed while under the age of 18; we found no reports of contrary practice.

Racial / Ethnic Composition of Death Row

Reports indicate a potential problem in death sentences pronounced on female domestic migrant workers who kill their employers or members of their employers’ families after allegedly being subjected to abusive conditions. Negotiation by the governments of foreign nationals may be a significant factor in whether a migrant worker is executed in such cases. Historically, most executions in Kuwait are of foreigners.

Recent Developments in the Application of the Death Penalty

Yes.

Commentary in the final report of the working group on the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of human rights in Kuwait suggests that an unofficial moratorium on executions has been in place since the last execution in 2007; however, Kuwait’s commitment to that moratorium may be limited. Kuwait reports that its courts have restricted application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes, but its last execution (in 2007) was for drug trafficking. The years immediately prior to 2007 had seen an upsurge in executions, a significant portion of which were executions of foreigners for drug trafficking offenses.

Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2020 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2018 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2018 Cosponsor

No.

2018 Vote

Against.

.

2018 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2016 Cosponsor

No.

2016 Vote

Against.

.

2016 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2014 Cosponsor

No.

2014 Vote

Against.

.

2014 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2012 Cosponsor

No.

2012 Vote

Against.

.

2012 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2010 Cosponsor

No.

2010 Vote

Against.

.

2010 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2008 Cosponsor

No.

2008 Vote

Against.

.

2008 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2007 Cosponsor

No.

2007 Vote

Against.

.

2007 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

None.

Other Groups and Individuals Engaged in Death Penalty Advocacy

Reprieve
PO Box 72054
London EC3P 3BZ
United Kingdom
Tel 020 7553 8140
Fax 020 7553 8189
info@reprieve.org.uk
http://www.reprieve.org.uk.

Where are judicial decisions reported?

We did not find an online database of judicial decisions. However, some decisions by Kuwaiti courts (not necessarily on the death penalty) are published in the official Gazette.

Helpful Reports and Publications

The general legal resource of the Gulf Corporation Council (http://www.gcc-legal.org/MojPortalPublic/Home.aspx) has been helpful in researching the laws of its Members. Our use of this database was supported by a translator through the WCADP.

Additional notes regarding this country

None.