Kuwait Moves

June 28, 1991

Kuwait ended an embarrassment when it wound up martial law tribunals of alleged collaborators and commuted 29 death sentences already handed down. U.S. and allied pressure to improve on the human rights front clearly had something to do with that.

But that should not be the end of it. Kuwait remains a disappointment to its friends in the aftermath of the gulf war. The return to civilian rule means the armed men on the corner change their army uniforms for police uniforms. It leaves guns in the hands of Kuwaitis, in some cases to use against Palestinian and other guest workers as they please. It leaves most Kuwaitis, not to mention non-Kuwaitis, out of the governing process. It leaves three-fourths of the oil wells that a plundering Iraqi occupation army set on fire, still on fire.

Sheik Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, can do more by restoring the constitution and parliament he suspended in 1986. He can allow opposition political groups and free press to flourish. He can seek broad participation in the reconstruction planning. The greatest embarrassment now is that the tyrant of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, is rebuilding Baghdad (not the Kurdish and Shiite cities) faster than Kuwait is rebuilding Kuwait City.

It would be good if the decree ending martial law and the death sentences is just the first step in an aggressive plan to modernize Kuwait's institutions in keeping with its wealth and economy.

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