Kuwaiti Elections: Debate over Kuwaiti Sovereignty and GCC Unity

Article Summary
Kuwait recently approved an Arab-GCC proposal put forward during the last GCC summit. Some electoral candidates for the 2012 National Assembly claim that this proposal violates Kuwaiti sovereignty. Dr. Badriah Abdallah al-Aoudi insists this is not the case, and that those who say otherwise have political motives.

I have noticed that in political lectures and speeches given by male and female candidates for the upcoming National Assembly elections of 2012, some candidates have been politicizing well-established national and international legal principles enshrined in world constitutions and international conventions. For example, some male and female candidates have politicized the principle of state sovereignty stated in Article I of the Kuwaiti Constitution. It reads: "Kuwait is an Arab State, independent and fully sovereign. Neither its sovereignty nor any part of its territory may be relinquished. The people of Kuwait are a part of the Arab Nation." Some candidates claim that that the [Kuwaiti] government’s approval of the proposal put forth by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [the King of Saudi Arabia] at the last Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit to establish an Arab-GCC union is a violation of [Kuwaiti] sovereignty as enshrined in Article I of the Kuwaiti constitution.

This politicized interpretation of the legal and international principle of sovereignty is inconsistent with the explanatory memorandum of the constitution on the principle of sovereignty, as enshrined in Article I. [The explanatory memorandum] reads: "This article prohibits ceding Kuwaiti sovereignty. This expression intends to register Kuwait's commitment to its sovereignty, but that commitment is compatible with what is customary among nations that choose to wave certain aspects of their sovereignty such as: Granting legal immunity to diplomats, certain foreign military forces, or to international bodies."

According to this legal interpretation, it can be said that being bound by regional or international treaties related to protecting national or regional Arab security among GCC countries does not diminish national sovereignty. Instead, it rather promotes and guarantees the rights of Kuwaitis to live in peace, security and free from external threats.

Therefore, we must ponder whether approving the proposal of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques will affect Kuwait's sovereignty and independence with regards to conventional notions of sovereignty under international law.

Scholars of international law define sovereignty as the supreme authority of the state to manage its internal and external affairs, without any restrictions besides those approved by the independent state by its own free will. Therefore, there are two facets to sovereignty. The first is internal, and concerns the state’s relationship with its citizens, and the manner in which it exercises sovereignty by applying the nation's laws on its territory according to state policy. The second facet is external, and it applies to a state’s relationship with other states. It underlines the necessity of respecting the independence of each state, and [abiding by a principle] of non-interference in [foreign states] internal affairs. [These principles are outlined in] Article 1 of Chapter II of the Charter of the United Nations, which reads: "The [UN] Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members." However, in spite of this, Chapter VII of the UN Charter does allow the UN to intervene in a state's internal matters in certain cases. [Notably, a state can intervene in the affairs of another] to preserve the collective security of nations, for self-defense purposes in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter, at the request of the government in question and for humanitarian purposes in cases of gross human rights violations.

International restrictions on the principle of state sovereignty does not constitute any diminution of the sovereignty of UN member states, as [these restrictions] are based on the independent and free consent of a member state to restrict its own sovereignty upon ratification, or accession to, international treaties. This rule applies to the State of Kuwait if it seeks to enter into an international or regional treaty or join an Arab or international alliance. As long as [ this new alliance or treaty] it is consistent with the higher interest of the state, established international principles of sovereignty and with the Kuwaiti Constitution, Kuwait [cannot claim a loss of sovereignty].

Therefore, in order to avoid misleading Kuwaiti public opinion on the principles of sovereignty or exploiting [these principles] during this critical period through which the Arab Gulf is passing, [Kuwaiti electoral] candidates, both men and women, should strive to in no way politicize these international principles - no matter the nobility of a candidate’s political objectives.

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