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).