Kuwaiti Building owners sue Manama Municipality
Manama, January 26, 2009
Owners of the controversial Kuwaiti Building are suing the Manama Municipality for BD2 million for financial losses over two years.
They claim the 31-year-old building is safe and the money would cover losses resulting from the eviction of families and businesses in November 2006, based on a court-backed order by the municipality.
The owners claim the municipality intentionally refused to give them a permit to carry out maintenance, remodelling and repair work to sway earlier court verdicts in their favour.
The Urgent Matters Court initially ruled in favour of bulldozing the 31-year-old twin-tower commercial and residential building on August 27, 2006.
However, there have since been repeated court appeals by the Kuwaiti owners and the municipality, resulting in a stalemate.
The municipality is now trying to overturn the last two verdicts, which went in the owners' favour, but an appeal in the Cassation Court is yet to reach a verdict.
The High Civil Appeal Court threw out a municipality case in May last year to have the building demolished, based on an engineer's report that the structure was sound.
In February last year, the Urgent Matters Court said it did not have jurisdiction over the case since three engineers had reported the building was in serious need of maintenance, but was not about to collapse as had been claimed.
However, municipality director-general Abdulkarim Hassan said that the pressure the building owners were exerting on the municipality would not resolve the issue.
'I have no plans to back down and give the owners the permission to carry out maintenance, remodelling and repair work because I still believe it is dangerous,' he said.
'It is gradually falling apart and who knows if it will hold up when people move in.
'The case is not over, the courts have changed the verdict several times, but there have been no solid decision on whether the building is safe or not.
'So the compensation case is baseless, considering that the municipality had the right to close down any building violating municipal rules unless ordered by the court to reopen it.
'I will allow the building to reopen after I receive a court order, in which a judge takes the full responsibility, because I don't want anything on my conscience.'
Mr Hassan said that the municipality had previously asked the building owners to knock it down and rebuild it at the same height, but they refused.
'The building is higher than others in the area because it was given a special licence,' he said.
'Now the building will have to be at a height according to the area's standards, or what the Manama Municipal Council agrees to give them.'
The owners' lawyer, Fatima Al Hawaj, said her clients were seeking BD2m for losses they suffered over the past two years.
'The building is perfectly safe and a report that was issued by a committee comprising of experts stated that it requires renovations and not demolition,' she said.
'But the municipality is not giving my clients a renovation licence and they haven't even demolished it yet.
'For the past two years, the municipality hasn't done anything with the building.
'They are prohibiting my clients from renting out the space and this has amounted to heavy losses, which we believe is more than BD2m.'
The Urgent Matters Court initially ruled in favour of bulldozing the twin-tower commercial and residential building in August 2006, but this was overturned by the Cassation Court in January last year - on the grounds that the court acted outside its jurisdiction.
The Cassation Court ruling voided all previous orders - including the evictions, but it is understood the building has remained empty ever since.
The 11-storey building housed shop