Oct 182014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2007-06-18 11:10
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Kuwait

DE RUEHKU #0938/01 1691110
O 181110Z JUN 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 000938




E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/17/2027

REF: STATE 81053

Classified By: Ambassador Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

¶1. (SBU) Summary: The demotion of Kuwait to Tier 3 in the
2007 TIP report garnered a great deal of attention. Kuwaiti
officials criticized the TIP report as inaccurate, but
pledged to continue working with the U.S. on anti-TIP
efforts. Officials and a number of columnists attacked the
U.S. human rights record, especially on the Guantanamo Bay
detention center. However, some government officials and
media reports also acknowledged the need for more government
action to address the problems faced by foreign workers in
Kuwait. The two Kuwaiti NGOs that have been somewhat active
in addressing the rights of expatriate workers welcomed the
conclusions of the report. They noted that the term
“trafficking” sounds extremely harsh in Arabic, which had
added to the defensiveness of Kuwaitis, even among some who
might otherwise be sympathetic to calls for improvements to
the situation of foreign workers. Sending country embassies
embraced the tier three ranking, noting that their citizens
continue to face abuses. End Summary.

Official Reactions: Criticism, Continued Cooperation
——————————————— ——-

¶2. (SBU) Embassy staff presented advanced copies of the
Kuwait TIP report and 60-day action plan to the MFA, Ministry
of Social Affairs and Labor (MOSAL), Ministry of Interior,
Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and Ministry of Justice. They
reiterated that there are laws in Kuwait to ensure workers
rights and that workers can go to the courts if they face any
problems. They also criticized the report for taking
exceptional cases as the rule. Despite their disappointment
with the demotion to Tier 3, they expressed their willingness
to cooperate with the USG on the issue.

¶3. (U) Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Shaykh Sabah
Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, just back from an international labor
conference in Geneva, told reporters that the ILO had not
expressed any criticism of Kuwait’s record on treatment of
laborers. (Note: The ILO sent a representative to Kuwait in
February to do a study on Kuwait’s sponsorship system. The
report concluded that the sponsorship system produces
widespread exploitation of workers. End Note.) Foreign
Minister Shaykh Dr. Mohammad Al-Sabah said the report lacked
factual evidence. However, he added that workers in Kuwait
face many problems. He stated that the government is serious
about facing these challenges and would soon adopt measures
and laws to improve the situation of foreign workers.
Ministers said the issue was on the June 17 Cabinet meeting
agenda, though they did not release a statement after the
meeting about whether they discussed the issue.

Parliament: Don’t Throw Stones

¶4. (SBU) Parliament Speaker Jassem Al-Khorafi grabbed the
biggest headlines on the TIP report. He told the press the
TIP report was laughable coming from a country that keeps
detainees without charge or trial at Guantanamo. He quipped
that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
MP Walid Tabtaba’i, one of the most prominent parliamentary
critics of the U.S., excoriated the U.S. in a June 16 article
in Al-Watan for its human rights violations in secret
prisons, in Iraq, and in its exploitation of Latin American
workers. While insisting Kuwait was “not in need of moral
advice from the Americans about human rights,” he conceded
Kuwait needs to “review and correct” its policies toward
foreign workers.


¶5. (U) Press reactions to the report were critical overall.
The most common criticism was of U.S. hypocrisy in
criticizing human rights in Kuwait while perpetrating human
rights abuses in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, secret prisons in
Europe, and Iraq. Columnist Khalid Al-Enezi came up with the
most creative response by connecting the report to a recent
statement by Kuwait’s defense minister that Kuwait would not
allow the U.S. to use Kuwait’s territory to launch an attack
on Iran. Al-Enezi speculated that if Kuwait changed its
position the 60-day TIP review would grant Kuwait a better
ranking. The Embassy held a press conference on June 13 to
discuss the report. Reporters focused special attention on
the possibility of sanctions, with several reporters noting
that the sanctions would have little effect on Kuwait.

¶6. (U) However, a number of reports noted that Kuwait needs

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to do much more to protect the rights of expatriate workers.
A June 15 story in the Al-Qabas Arabic daily noted its own
report from March, in which it warned of the potential
findings of the TIP report. It accused MOSAL of inaction
despite the fact that Kuwait is “drowning in marginalized
workers.” The story went on to say that visas and work
permits are openly traded but the government has not clamped


¶6. (SBU) The two NGOs most active on expatriate labor
issues supported the conclusions of the report. Ali
Al-Baghli, the acting director of the Kuwait Human Rights
Society, told PolOff on June 16 that he supported the
conclusions of the TIP report. He noted that the term
“trafficking” was not well understood in Kuwaiti society.
The term conjures up images of eighteenth century slave
trading, he said, thereby causing many Kuwaitis to reject the
report. He himself found the term trafficking inflammatory
and preferred exploitation. PolOff asked if the Human Rights
Society would consider making anti-TIP an item on its agenda.
Al-Baghli responded that the Society had no set agenda, but
would continue to make press statements about the rights of
foreign workers.

¶7. (C) Faisal Al-Masoud of the Social Work Society also
expressed his support of the report in a June 17 meeting. He
said he would use his connections with various media outlets
to encourage news coverage over the next few weeks of worker
abuse in order to put pressure on the government to act.
Al-Masoud agreed that the report has some shock value, but he
also emphasized that TIP will be prevalent in Kuwait until
there is widespread popular interest in the issue.

Sending Country Embassies

¶8. (C) Bangladesh Labor Attache Shahriar Siddiky told
PolOff he was pleased with the report. He said the situation
in Kuwait is not getting better for Bangladeshis and pointed
to a case he is currently pursuing on behalf of 200
Bangladeshi workers who say they have not been paid in
months. Siddiky said he has faced bureaucratic hurdles and
is pessimistic about the chances of a positive resolution of
the case. Filipino Labor Attache Leopoldo De Jesus told
PolOff he supported Kuwait’s Tier 3 ranking. He reported
that the Filipino embassy has been receiving phone calls from
Filipinas who say they are victims of forced prostitution but
are unable to give directions to where they are located.

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For more reporting from Embassy Kuwait, visit:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/kuwait/?cable s

Visit Kuwait’s Classified Website:
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