While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States, and may not afford the same protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Persons violating the law in a foreign country, even unknowingly, may be deported, fined, arrested, or imprisoned. If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted, and possibly convicted and sentenced.
The U.S. Embassy cannot effect the release of U.S. citizens imprisoned in foreign jails. However, a U.S. consular officer will insist on prompt access to an arrested U.S. citizen, provide a list of attorneys, provide information on the host country’s legal system, offer to contact the arrested citizen’s family or friends, visit on a regular basis, protest mistreatment, monitor jail conditions, and keep the Department of State informed.
The following information about the Kuwaiti legal system might prove useful if you are detained or arrested in Kuwait.
In Kuwait, when the police make an arrest, they may begin an investigation or open a file on the suspect within 24 hours of the arrest. Alternatively, the suspect may be released by the police pending further investigation before the opening of an official case file. Or the authorities may determine that a suspect can be released on bail or under the personal guarantee of a Kuwaiti citizen (sponsor).
Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Kuwaiti authorities are obligated to notify the U.S. Embassy when a U.S. citizen is arrested; this may not apply to dual nationals who maintain Kuwaiti nationality. However, the Embassy often encounters delays in the notification process and at times, does not receive the required notice. A detainee should be provided with an opportunity to make a telephone call, therefore, he/she should notify his/her local sponsor and the U.S. Embassy. Click here for the U.S. Embassy emergency contact information.
Once a file is opened, the suspect may be held in detention up to 21 days to await the results of the investigation or toxicology exams if applicable. In general, the suspect will be taken to the District Attorney’s office within 48 hours of the arrest for processing. At times, the investigator or prosecutor may decide to extend the detention. In those cases, the detainee will be transferred to the Central Prison for detention.
Only the Minister of Interior or the Minister of Justice can close or open a case file. A case involving personal, as opposed to civil, damages can be closed if the aggrieved party withdraws his or her complaint. During detention, the investigator/prosecutor will question and transcribe the detainee’s statement in Arabic. The investigator/prosecutor provides translation services if the detainee and the investigator do not speak the same language. Since the detainee is expected to sign every page of his or her transcribed statement, the requirement for a translator is crucial. U.S. citizens who are arrested are encouraged not to sign any statements unless an English translation is provided and they fully understand the statement.
While an attorney or legal representative may be present during questioning, the investigator has the discretion to bar defense counsel from attending a detainee’s questioning. Often, third parties are not permitted in the court room during the judicial proceedings.
U.S. citizens, who have been charged with criminal offenses, placed under investigation, involved in unresolved financial disputes, or have unpaid debts, are subject to Kuwaiti government travel bans. The U.S. Embassy can provide U.S. citizens with a list of attorneys. However, only Kuwaiti authorities can remove travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. Travel bans can also be initiated by private citizens for almost any reason and may remain in place for a substantial period of time while the case is being investigated.
The Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., is the point of contact for family members in the United States who are concerned about a U.S. citizen family member who has been arrested abroad. You can reach OCS by calling 1-888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444. Family members may also contact the ACS Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait at (965) 2259-1001 or via e-mail: KuwaitACS@state.gov. Please note that Privacy Act protections prohibit the release of information about U.S. citizens without their express consent.
Below are addresses and phone numbers of the main police stations:
|Police Station||Address||Telephone Numbers|
|Sharq Police Station||Ahmad Al-Jaber Street, Sharq||2242-4019 / 2245-6172|
|Salhiya Police Station||Osama Ben Munqez Street, Watiya area||2242-7157 / 2242-2353|
|Maidan Hawalli Police Station||Block 11, Hamoud Al-Nasser Street, Hawalli||2562-6971 / 2562-9910|
|Jabriya Police Station||Block 7, 101 Street, Jabriya||2531-5393 / 2531-2559|
|Nugra Police Station||Block 2, Beirut Street, Nugra||2565-5463|
|Salmiya Police Station||Block 5, next to Salmiya CO-Op, Salmiya||2571-3218 / 2572-7806|
|Salwa Police Station||Block 5, Al-Mutanabi Street, Salwa||2562-5656 / 2562-6950|
|Rumaithiya Police Station||Block 7, Hassan Al-Bana Street, Rumaithiya||2562-1600 / 2563-9558|
|Fahaheel Police Station||Block 2, Al-Badaweya Street, No. 25||2391-0014 / 2391-2959|
|Abu Halifa Police Station||Block 2, Sheikh Faisal Almalek Street, Abu Halifa||2371-4753 / 2372-2151|
|Fintas Police Station||Block 2, next to Fintas CO-OP, Fintas||2390-3744 / 2390-3606|
|Ahmadi Police Station||Block 7, 201 Street, East Ahmadi||2398-0401 / 2398-0304|