Human Rights Court Protects Foreign Workers in Kuwait

Workers Union Obtains International Court Order for Foreign Teachers Against Threats by Kuwaiti Ministry of Education

Quotable:               “The ‘foreign workers’ in this case are not some privileged visitors…  they are also mostly ethnic Arabs from other ‘developing’ countries… which also suffered damages from wars and revolutions.  So this… is a case of the shared struggle of all peoples in the Middle East striving to collectively escape from poverty.” – Prince Judge Matthew of Thebes

Press Release:       The Human Rights Court Division of the Sovereign Court of International Justice (SCIJ), an inter-governmental organization (IGO) of the independent Judiciary profession, issued a Preliminary Court Order on 05 August 2017, opening a class action civil lawsuit and also criminal investigation against the State of Kuwait, for claims of decades of unpaid wages of thousands of foreign teachers, allegedly driven by a policy of discrimination.  The Court ruling also issued a protective order against public threats by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education overtly intimidating workers into not seeking access to Justice with the international Judiciary.

Ashraf Ali Abouelella, Chief Administrator of the plaintiff Workers Rights International, described the Court case in this way:

“The foreign teachers employed by the Ministry of Education served as public role models of dedication to the general welfare of Kuwait.  A whole generation of the youth of Kuwait graduated with quality education thanks to their efforts.  As a result, the State of Kuwait has flourished.  However, instead of returning the favor to those who were the reason for its renaissance by education, Kuwait continued to deprive them of their contractual and statutory rights, and thus constitutional rights, thereby violating international human rights.”

Prince Judge Matthew of Thebes, a Barrister and Privy Council facilitating the case with the international Judiciary, noted:

“The ‘foreign workers’ in this case are not some privileged visitors from dominant countries with strong economies.  Like the Kuwaitis, they are also mostly ethnic Arabs from other ‘developing’ countries in the Middle East with disadvantaged economies and widespread poverty, which also suffered damages from wars and revolutions.  So this is not a case of protecting national interests for some balance with more prosperous countries.  It is a case of the shared struggle of all peoples in the Middle East striving to collectively escape from poverty, by working to stimulate and elevate the economies of all countries throughout the region.”

For several years, newspaper articles worldwide have described a national crisis which has been escalating to educational workers pursuing lawsuits with international courts against the State of Kuwait for discriminatory non-payment and deprivation of wages by its Ministry of Education as violations of constitutional rights and human rights.

The Kuwait Court of Appeal issued a Judgment ruling that contractual and statutory payments must be equally applied to foreign workers generally (Madkour v. Ministry of Education, April 2013).  The Kuwait Constitutional Court issued a Judgment ruling that discrimination denying a class equal pay for equal work is unconstitutional, and that unpaid statutory benefits to foreign workers must be paid retroactively (Female Educational Workers, October 2016).

However, these and other Judgments of the Kuwaiti High Courts have been mostly disregarded, and defiantly ignored by the government agencies responsible for payment.  As a result, the plaintiff workers union appealed to the Sovereign Court of International Justice (SCIJ) essentially seeking international enforcement of those binding legal precedents by the Kuwaiti High Courts.

Officials of the Ministry of Education publicly denied the need for an international Judiciary process, arguing that Kuwait “has a fair Judiciary, which can be resorted to in order to resolve any grievances or problems”.

A spokesperson for the Sovereign Court (SCIJ) responded:  “We agree that the High Courts of Kuwait have upheld the highest Judiciary standards, consistently ordering the enforcement of foreign workers rights.  The problem is that the Ministries ordered by those excellent national Courts to pay all workers systemically ignore and defy their own Kuwaiti Courts.  That is precisely why the international Judiciary is needed, for a higher level of enforcement, addressing violations of a higher rule of law.”

Officials of the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance and even the Parliament of Kuwait have refused payment and blocked budgets otherwise available for payment, claiming “budget failure” and legislative efforts to impose an “austerity plan”, as an excuse for disregarding the rulings of the Kuwaiti High Courts.

However, lawyers for the plaintiffs point out that Kuwait must have reserves from its previous record-high surplus budgets in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2013, which in 2005 peaked at 43% of Kuwait’s gross domestic product (GDP), and argue that from those years it had many opportunities to fully pay all wages owed to all workers.

In direct and immediate response to social media rumors of the plaintiffs planning to appeal to the international Judiciary, the Ministry of Education publicly made aggressive threats through Kuwaiti newspapers, both in English and Arabic:

“Ministry of Education will not stand idle in the face of these measures, which affect the country’s reputation in international forums.  Firm actions will be taken against any teacher who harms Kuwait’s reputation.  If any teacher is proven to have done so, his/her service will be terminated. …  Kuwait’s reputation is the ‘Red Line’ and no one will be allowed to tarnish the image of the ‘State of Humanity’.”

The Court Order by the Sovereign Court (SCIJ) held that “In international law, a State has limited rights to protect its reputation only against a ‘campaign’ of ‘propaganda’ by another State which undermines its ‘sovereignty and political independence’…  A State most certainly has no reputational rights whatsoever against private persons seeking to assert their lawful rights. …  A State is solely responsible for the consequences to its reputation from its own policies and its own official actions towards the people living and working on its own territory.”

The advocacy group Migrant-Rights.org has documented a history of such threats by the Kuwaiti Ministry against foreign workers planning lawsuits, who “were threatened with losing their jobs, no matter the outcome of the Court order.”

The Court ruled that “it is a universal criminal offense to intimidate a victim of rights violations by threatening ‘retaliation’, specifically including threats against their ‘lawful employment or livelihood’, to prevent their asserting lawful rights… This major violation constitutes the international crime of ‘victim intimidation’.”

A spokesperson for the Court noted that it was those last-minute public threats by the Kuwait Ministry which compelled the Presiding Judges to additionally open the criminal investigation, which was not previously planned.

The founder of the trade union Workers Rights International, the Egyptian teacher Ashraf Ali Abouelella, as the primary member of the plaintiff class, was employed by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education for 20 years and 7 months since 1992, and has persisted in pursuing his legal claim of unpaid wages throughout 26 years.

The trade union Workers Rights International is represented by Doctor Galal Wadnan Elaboudi of the Egyptian law firm International Center for Legal Consultancy (ICLC).

The union’s class action lawsuit was directly joined by the first group of 104 workers, most from Egypt, with a few from Jordan and Syria.  The larger class consists of an estimated 20,000 foreign teachers employed by Kuwait, who are also affected by Judgments regarding this plaintiff group.

The Egyptian Embassy in Kuwait already made official complaints to the State of Kuwait in October 2016 on behalf of the teachers in this Court case.  Egyptians are the largest group of foreign workers in the Kuwaiti education sector, and also the second largest migrant worker group in Kuwait after India, and followed by Tunisia, Jordan and Syria.

About the Institutions:

The International Center for Legal Consultancy (ICLC) is an international law firm based in Cairo, Egypt, with representation in the Netherlands.  It is accredited to both the Supreme Administrative Court and High Cassation Court of Egypt, and is recognized by both the Arab Lawyers Union and International Lawyers Union.

The Sovereign Court of International Justice (SCIJ) is an official supra-governmental Court of Law and international Court of Justice exercising universal jurisdiction, as a High Court at Common Law for human rights and international law cases, operated by the independent Judiciary profession.

The Court is an inter-governmental organization (IGO), founded upon inherent statutory powers and authorities of the Judiciary under the UN framework of conventional law, which are binding upon all countries regardless of recognition, under UN Independence of the Judiciary (Preamble: 1, 10, Articles 3, 4, 7) and UN Law of Treaties (Article 38).

Related Articles:

Teachers Threaten to Take Kuwait to International Courts: Ministry of Education Warns of Actions Against Complaints

Kuwait’s Expat Teachers Will Not be Compensated Despite [Kuwaiti] Court Order

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Press Agency:  The facts and contents of this authorized Press Release are certified and reported by Barristers of the Magna Carta Bar Chambers (MCBC), an international law firm and university law center supporting projects of public interest of its institutional and governmental clients, licensed by multiple governments including the inter-governmental organization (IGO) Ignita Veritas United.