Rights: Home and Abroad

Summer is here, and thousands of Saudis are getting ready to depart the country to spend their vacations away from the insane heat. Swine flu has certainly affected tourism around the world, but some people insist that they won’t let infectious diseases and global pandemics ruin their holidays. “I’d rather die of Swine flu somewhere nice than die of this hot weather in Riyadh,” a friend of mine half-jokingly said a couple of weeks ago.

With the large numbers of Saudi nationals traveling, the Ministry of Foreign affairs issued information guidelines of the varying nature of legal procedures abroad and how best to protect their rights when traveling or studying outside the Kingdom. The guidelines advise Saudis involved in legal cases to only speak in the presence of a lawyer and ensure attendance at court hearings to avoid in absentia rulings.

Sound advice, no doubt, and it is a commendable effort by the foreign ministry. But this piece of advice should also apply equally to citizens inside the country, and it is important that people here know their rights before the law. Unfortunately, little has been done to promote these rights among citizens. I believe that the government is responsible for protecting their citizens abroad and home alike.

Worth mentioning here is the Know Your Rights series published by the National Society of Human Rights. I personally don’t leave the house without a copy of this Rights of the Suspect (PDF) booklet. An English version of the booklet is available here (RTF).

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21 thoughts on “Rights: Home and Abroad

  1. Have you read the English version. It’s a hoot!
    It is both funny (for the errors in grammar) and sad (if it is accurate).

    “3. In cases other than flagrante delecto, ”
    The word should be delicto.

    “7. You shall not be detained for more than twenty-four hours except pursuant to a written order from the Investigator.”

    Nowhere does it say that the person arrested should be informed about the order.

  2. Thank you for the Arabic version of the ‘Know Your Rights’ series.
    I sent a copy to everyone I know, with a famous old American Express ad “Know Your Rights series card. Don’t leave home without it” ;)

  3. Hola Bendiciones, sabes ingresé a tu página por una nota que ha publicado un periódico de mi país, en cual dice: Los “blogueros” ponen a prueba los límites en Arabia Saudí. y ponen palabras textuales tuyas: Quiero hacerlo porque quiero ser parte del cambio que está teniendo lugar en el país. Quiero ayudar a que los cambios vayan más rápido”, dijo Omran, un estudiante que escribe en su blog Saudi Jeans (saudijeans.org).
    Eres valiente y vocero de tu país. que bueno te felicito y pido al Señor Jesucristo que te use en gran manera, para llevar esperanza a tu país por medio de la Palabra viva y Eficaz.
    Dios te bendiga y hasta pronto.

  4. Both initiatives, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs one, and your own personal one to distribute the Saudi National rights guide (at least there is one!) are very admirable.

    The Saudi Gazette article does highlight a key point, that domestic/familial issues can be chargeable offenses that will be prosecuted independent of a family member’s complaint. For example, iin Canada, if you hit your wife, the police charge you no matter what your wife says. The same is true if she hits you. If someone thinks you are abusing your child, the Children’s Aid investigates no matter who you are.

    A top medical professor was charged, investigated, and reported on in the national media, because he accidently left his toddler asleep in a parked car, while he spent 1/2 hour in a store. A passerby saw the child and alerted the police. He was ultimately (months later) cleared, and helped to clear another man who was charged with murdering his daughter because he accidently left her asleep in the back seat of his car for the duration of his work day, and she died.

    A Moroccan friend who brought his 6 year old brother to Canada for a better education, was investigate by the Children’s Aid for spanking him. They talked about abuse so much at school that the brother told the school he was being hit at home. The friend was cleared, but returned his brother to Morocco, and the public education system there.

    Bottom line, if you are in a country no matter how long you are subject to its laws (and the whims of its citizens) so you should know the cultural differences and your rights.

    Luisa–una palabras muy lindas.

  5. I’ve tried familiarising myself with the laws over here but the darn Anti-terror ones keep on changing – I can’t keep up and every time someone prints a booklet, it soon becomes out of date.

    On a side note – If you’re worried about Swine Flu, don’t come to my town – it first arrived here last week and we’ve already had two deaths (I live in a smallish town that’s densely populated). But I don’t think you’d want to come to my town anyway – it’s cursed

    Another side note, I’ve impressed myself at how much of Luisa’s post I understood – not bad for one year’s study. My next target is Arabic.

      • Well, it was a nice quiet town up until about 5 years ago.

        – Then 7/7 happened and the ring leader happened to be from Dewsbury.
        – A 15 year old girl tried hanging an 8 year old girl from a tree
        – A 16 year old guy was jailed for looking at terrorist websites and his granddad just happened to be one of the biggest Muslim scholars in the town.
        – A 17-year old was stabbed and killed at a Railway Station on a Saturday Afternoon, by three drunk kids. And this was a couple of days before Eid.
        – Then a couple of months later, another17-year old was beaten to death in a park.
        – An 8-year old girl was kidnapped by some old man, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, it turned out that he was hired by the mother in a ploy to get the reward money.

        There are some more but I can’t remember what what they are. Send some sympathy my way

  6. Shafiq–uh, okay, cursed, I agree.
    Waves of sympathy heading your way!
    Is this your hometown or a place you can escape from after studies/work contract, whatever? I only ask because it doesn’t sound like a healthy place to be, and less so for a Muslim.

    Then again in Toronto twice they have arrested and jailed a group of young Muslims. The first group were ~ 17 Pakistanis who were, uh, well Pakistani and attending a, uh, mosque after 9/11; and the second group who were arrested with immense media photo ops of sharp shooters from roofs, were 18 diverse Muslim youth who were being misled by 2 Muslim CSIS (our CIA) plants into playing terrorist. Oddly enough the vast majority are innocent, and released after having reputations sullied, finances drained, school interrupted, etc. Maybe Toronto has a curse :( Or, maybe we have a government slavishly following US demands to arrest our terrorists, and tighten our borders because we provided the 9/11 “air crews”–oh wait, no they went directly to the US, hmmm, inconvenient that.

    That is one of the reasons the Canadian Arab Federation has published guidelines for what to do if you are approached by CSIS (or the RCMP our FBI) . For anyone travelling to or residing in Canada here it is:

    http://www.caf.ca/Admin.aspx?AppModule=TxAppFramework.Web.Admin&Command=EMBEDDEDFILE&DataObjectID=701&ColumnID=3581&FieldName=CONTENT&Lang=EN&RecordID=613

    In short: be polite, don’t talk, don’t go with them, stall, don’t let them in, contact CAF, get a lawyer.

    • This is my hometown and yes, I am surrounded by psychopaths and weirdos. Despite what I’ve said, it is a relatively safe place to be and there’s a large Muslim community there to help if things do go wrong.

      But as soon a I graduate, I’m out of here. I don’t exactly fit in well – most of the people here (Muslims included) prefer to hang around street corners smoking weed whereas I actually want to get somewhere with my life.

      P.S. Toronto is not cursed. I’m surprised it’s only happened twice. That happens here all the time and after the media makes a big deal about it, they’re quietly released or re-arrested on trumped up child-pornography charges – Same story every time. I do remember once though, a friend of a friend was deported back here upon arriving in Canada for being brown and having a beard.

      The good thing is that white people are beginning to realise (over here anyway) what’s really happening

      • Shafiq–oh! but Toronto’s nickname is/was “Toronto the Good” (tea-totalling WASP Anglican conservative stock; much cleaner and safer than a US city).

        Indeed, being brown and having a beard is very suspicious. Rohinton Mistry a Zoroastrian native of India, Canadian citizen, with a thin moustache and a goatee, and a major author was harassed at every airport on a book tour through the US, until he just came back to his home in a Toronto suburb with a very high South Asian population.

        Other brown people of whatever ethnicity, race or religions are harassed (spat at, eggs thrown, threatened as terrorists) in Canada, and if facial hair is a personal choice for the men they often shave it.

        Canada has broadly done alot of arresting of Muslims on special war type measures: no cause needed, no proof, no charges, no or little access to a lawyer, “evidence” withheld, evidence made up, information blocked from defense counsel, defense counsel and key witnesses (I know one of them well–he’s white and would have shown that CSIS makes up stories about targets) threatened by CSIS about putting a certain witness on the stand, or testifying…all at the insistence of the US. The only time Canada has invoked such war measures (the real ones, not the new ones) since WWII was by Prime Minister Pierre “Just Watch Me” Trudeau during the 1970’s FLQ Crisis for a brief period.

        White people are becoming more aware here too, and the only reason Prime Minister Stephen “We should have gone to Iraq too” Harper is holding to a 2011 withdrawal from Afghanistan is that the populace is so against staying, and was even before the economic downturn.

        I’m glad your hometown is reasonable as a temporary place to continue to live, and that you will take your education and move on. Recent brain studies are showing that weed is alot more dangerous to the mind and body than people realize. Chronic use has long been shown to induce apathy in a high percentage of people, and acute or regular use makes some paranoid–a very unpleasant feeling, indeed.

  7. “A top medical professor was charged, investigated, and reported on in the national media, because he accidently left his toddler asleep in a parked car, while he spent 1/2 hour in a store. A passerby saw the child and alerted the police. He was ultimately (months later) cleared, and helped to clear another man who was charged with murdering his daughter because he accidently left her asleep in the back seat of his car for the duration of his work day, and she died.”
    And I guess that Chiara thinks it’s okay to leave a baby alone in a car.Well I don’t.

    • NielsC–Of course I don’t think it is okay to leave a baby, child, or young children alone in a car, and most Canadians these days wouldn’t dream of it (in the past there was less concern about child abduction). In both the instances I described, there was clearly no pattern of abuse or neglect, and a clear error, not of judgment, but of cognition. Specifically, both men were conditioned by routine not to have a child in the car at that time of day, doing that activity, and thus when the toddler in the safety seat buckled into the back seat fell asleep, in the silence, both followed through on their normal routine. This was proven in court and resulted in charges being dropped.

      The medical doctor was with his 14 yr old daughter and went into the store with her on a routine errand. He had brought the baby as a last minute decision and engaged in discussion with the older one forgot the other (as did the older one). The other man normally dropped his wife off at work and then the baby off at daycare. Since his wife didn’t need a ride to work that day, he was supposed to drop the baby off, but conditioned by the routine of wife then baby, he forgot he hadn’t dropped the baby off, and went in to work a normal shift, unaware the child was sleeping in the car. Unfortunately because of the length of time, when he returned he discovered his child dead.

      The Dr’s case is described here:
      http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2001/05/08/hamilton_doctor010508.html

      Sorry, I’ve tried in English and French for the other one, and can’t find a reference. My memory for this kind of thing is usually good though (clinical training). I did discover that a number of men in France, Switzerland, and Belgium have done the same sort of thing–one a pharmacist who stopped for an accident, was flustered, and forgot to drop off his 2 year old, whom he discovered dead, 2 hours later when he came back to car after a shortened afternoon shift in the pharmacy.

      The problem for me is with the overreaction of Children’s Aid (who have more serious cases to attend to–like the psychotic mothers I talk to them about), the police, and the media. While socially prominent people should be held to account they sometimes receive worse treatment than less prominent ones. In the case of the Quebec fellow the original charges were excessive, and he will bear the burden of his daughter’s death for the rest of his life. Although I only know the medical Dr by professional repution (excellent), he went up infinitely in my estimation, for going back into the media spotlight to defend the Quebec working class man, with less clout.

      Thanks for the chance to clarify, in case anyone else was confused about my beliefs. On re-reading it might have been the “(and the whims of its citizens)” remark that led to confusion. That was in reference to other incidences, sorry.

  8. I think, that for balance, it would be best if everyone knew their rights and RESPONSIBILITIES or obligations, whether in their own countries or abroad. There is too much emphasis on rights in most western countries and not enough on the other side of the equation. And like most cliches, “when in Rome…..” has a large dose of common sense in it.

  9. Chiara,

    Toronto is lovely (from what I hear), but then again, it doesn’t take much to be cleaner and safer than a US city.

    This latest bout of McCarthyism is getting quite tiring now. I hope it ends soon. At least here in Britain, no-one cares of you have a long beard. I’ve heard Steven Harper is a right **** but hopefully he’ll be gone at the next election. It’s time to et rid of all the Bush-era statesman.

  10. The rights outlined in Saudi law are all very good if they were actually implemented. The problem is that they are not. Many suspects are held for months on end without being charged or tried in a court of law, which is a violation of Saudi law.

    But since it is the state that is violating its own laws, who is going to hold it accountable?

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