Kuwait will begin enforcing a security law this year that will make it the first country in the world to require DNA samples from all citizens and visitors.
Newsweek reports that the law, which was passed in July 2015, will collect DNA samples from the saliva or blood of at least 3.3 million people and store them in a laboratory in the General Department of Criminal Evidence, a few miles outside Kuwait City.
Since the law covers visitors as well, DNA samples will be taken from new arrivals at Kuwait International Airport, most likely through cheek swabs. Mobile laboratories will be used to collect samples from Kuwaiti citizens.
Kuwaiti officials said the DNA database would be useful for “solving crime and terrorism cases,” as well as identifying citizens killed in accidents and natural disasters. They said the new law would put them “at par” with the U.S. and U.K. – neither of which has mandatory DNA testing for all citizens, much less temporary visitors.
The Kuwait Times has published reports suggesting many elements of the new security law are a “flagrant violation of rights and liberties guaranteed for individuals by the constitution.”
Of major concern are the potential “genealogical implications” of DNA testing, leading to copious assurances from officials that the tests will never be used for that purpose. They have also assured the public that the DNA information will be carefully protected, with stiff penalties for attempting to falsify the tests or damage the DNA database.
“The test is not done to diagnose any disease or obtain medical information because such information is part of individuals’ privacy and the law bans access to it,” a senior official told the Kuwait Times.