Manama: Kuwaiti teenage students have been warned that they could face the death penalty or heavy prison terms for certain crimes following the decision to lower the juvenile age from 18 to 16 in January.
"Starting next year, anyone aged 16 or more arrested for a crime will be tried by a regular court, and not the juvenile court, which means the death penalty for some crimes," Bader Al Ghadhoori, the head of juvenile protection at the Ministry of Interior, said.
"Everybody, especially the students and their parents should be extremely careful about the significance of the change in the application of the law," he told students at a forum about the risks of misusing social media.
Under the current juvenile law, criminal penalties are applied to people who are 18 years and above, while special penalties are applied to those under 18.
Al Ghadhoori highlighted the importance of surfing websites and using social media, but warned against their negative aspects.
"Online sites are double-edged for they can offer great opportunities as well as ominous risks. The problem is not so much with the sites as with the one surfing or using them," he said, quoted by Kuwaiti daily Al Qabas on Thursday.
The official said that the most dangerous risks related to online sites were disturbances, strikes, demonstrations, mass absenteeism by students, sit-ins, underground organisations, terrorist and drug trafficking groups, alcohol, sex tourism, prostitution and organized crime.
Some websites work on undermining relations with brotherly and friendly countries, incite attacks on leaders, presidents and iconic religious figures and symbols, provoke sectarian and tribal feuds, ridicule and deride others, and spread rumours, Al Ghadhoori said.
"People should truly fear God and abide by the laws and regulations as several families and societies have been suffering from the negative impact of destructive websites," he said.
Kuwait's parliament last year approved a new law for delinquent juveniles that lowered the age of minors from 18 to 16 years.
The approval by 37 lawmakers and opposed by seven was in line with the drive by the authorities curb a sharp increase in the crime rate following calls by some MPs to take a tougher stance in order to protect teenagers.
The lawmakers who called for a lower juvenile age had warned that terrorist groups were working on recruiting young people and argued that strict measures were needed to foil their plans.
However, several activists said that the new juvenile age as approved by the parliament last year would be a violation of the teenagers' rights.
They said that young people should not be treated like adults and that a better option could be to slightly toughen their sentences.