The Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States on Thursday defended his country against charges that it has allowed widespread abuse of non-Kuwaiti residents, calling such accusations "politically motivated."
Sheik Saud al Nasir al Sabah, in an interview before an evening address to the World Affairs Council of Orange County, acknowledged that Kuwait has undergone severe postwar trauma that spawned violence against those suspected of collaborating with the Iraqi invaders.
But he said the Kuwaiti government has neither instigated nor supported such violence.
"We understand the emotions of people who have been brutalized, but we have urged them to use self-control and not to take the law into their own hands," Ambassador Saud said.
He also defended his government's handling of military tribunals, which are in the process of trying more than 200 suspected collaborators.
The tribunals, being conducted under martial law, have been widely criticized as lacking in basic due-process procedures, such as not requiring the presence of witnesses to alleged crimes.
But Saud said much of the criticism stems from a misunderstanding of the Kuwaiti system of law by Americans used to a "Perry Mason" approach.
"People don't understand our legal system and criticize it under the assumption that it is supposed to be like theirs," said Saud, himself a lawyer. "For example, there is no jury system in Kuwait even under normal circumstances, and there is no right to appeal under martial law even in your country. The trials are fair under the Kuwaiti system."
Saud accused the media of unfairly portraying events in postwar Kuwait, saying the government has been accused of everything from not moving to put out vast oil fires to neglecting the sewage system.
"After reading all of the articles, I was very concerned about what I would face in going back to Kuwait," said Saud, whose first postwar visit to his country was in March. "The reality bore no relation to what I had read. . . . Now that the war is over and won, people who were opposed (to the war) are coming out of the woodwork. It has become a political issue." Noting that Kuwaitis made up only 30% of the population in prewar Kuwait, Saud cautioned that his country will continue its controversial policy of deporting not only suspected collaborators but other foreign nationals--immigrants who consider themselves Kuwaiti but have been denied citizenship.
"In the past, we took a sympathetic position and allowed many immigrants into our country," he said. "But we cannot absorb anymore. We are adamant about increasing the percentage of Kuwaitis and decreasing the percentage of non-Kuwaitis."
But Saud said there are many encouraging signs. He returned from a visit to his country last week and said much of Kuwait has returned to normal: telephone service has been restored, water supplies replenished, and schools are scheduled to reopen in time for the fall semester in September.
And the mood of the country has remained positive:
"People are jubilant as they face the task of rebuilding their country," Saud declared.