Each year over 2,500 Americans are arrested overseas for everything from spitting on the sidewalk to murder. One third of these poor fuckers get locked up on dope-related charges. Many of those arrested assumed that as U.S. citizens that they couldn’t be arrested or with the mindset that the U.S. Embassy would come pick them up with just a phone call.
From Asia to Africa, Europe to South America, U.S. citizens are finding out the hard way that smoking a bong with that “nice” local gal or committing (knowingly or unknowingly) criminal offenses equals’ “Prison Man Rape” in many foreign countries.
When you are traveling in the 3rd and Developing World it is on-you to know what the laws are in a foreign country before you go, because saying “I didn’t know it was illegal to give the finger to the Douchebag who almost ran me off the road” to the tribal court judge in Hellholeastan will not get you out of jail.
In most 3rd world countries you as a foreigner have Zero legal rights at all…Period. In many of these 3rd World countries your home, car and person can be searched by the police (or even by local citizens) for any reason without a warrant or probable cause.
And many activities that are completely legal or normal in your home country are considered serious crimes in the host country.
Things like holding hands or kissing in public, women driving a car, honking your horn at someone who cut you off, owning a GPS device or camera phone, owning certain books, speaking unfavorably about the local government, attending church at a friend’s home and having a copy of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue on the backseat of your car are crimes in certain parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
In addition to “official laws” there are many “unofficial crimes” that could get you arrested. Many 3rd world and developing countries have a “ruling elite” that is unofficially (or even officially) above the law or a legal and social system that favors the local population above any non-citizens. In these countries something as simple as telling someone to “Watch where you’re walking!” if they bump into you can get you arrested for insulting someone.
And you may think that you will “have your day in court” and prove that you didn’t do anything. Think again, the court systems in many 3rd world and developing countries are barely above the Spanish Inquisition. Not being allowed to call witnesses, attend your own trial, have an attorney, access to your embassy, granted bail (or no bail system at all) and five figure fines for things as minor as cursing someone out are normal.
First off – If you do get arrested for the love of everything holy do not resist the officer. In many countries the police will have no problem with beating your ass (the Middle East) and then beating your unconscious body (S. Korea) for five more minutes after you pass out.
I have personally witnessed cops in Thailand and Qatar beat a resisting westerner until he pissed his pants. So you may think you are a “Tough Guy” – but when it is 14 Mutaween VS you don’t expect to win.
Do not expect Assistance from the US Embassy:
Basically the local US Embassy won’t do shit for you if you get arrested, the American consular officer has more important things like complaining about their maid than helping an American in need.
The only thing the consular officer will do is come and see you in jail to tell you that he can’t do anything but call your mom and dad, give you the number of a local lawyer that will bleed you dry and write a “strongly worded letter” if you are being tortured.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS WORKING OVERSEAS:
Depending on the Company/PMC you work for and what country you are posted in you may end up living or spending a lot of time off base. While off base you should attempt to avoid any conflicts especially with the local population and law enforcement.
You may think that as a civilian contractor working with the US Military you will be protected if you get into trouble or arrested while off base. Not true! In many countries that have US Military bases there is no “Status of Forces Agreement” with the host country.
And even if there is a SOFA you may or may not be protected under it as a contracted civilian working for a private company (consult the Company/PMC that you work for or the base legal office).
But no matter what happens expect to get fired, not offered a new contract or harassed off the contract, it won’t matter if you were found innocent or guilty, pay your fines or your case is dismissed.
Most PMC’s just don’t want to deal with someone that has been arrested and “embarrassed them” (in their opinion). Basically they will want you to just go away. Not all PMC’s will want to get rid of you especially if you were not at fault, many of the smaller PMC’s will not fire or otherwise try and get rid of you if you get into trouble and they will do everything in their power to help you.
Don’t expect the same consideration from larger PMC’s, if you are arrested you will probably be on your own with little or no help from them.
Founder – Editor in Chief
James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and running from the cops in Istanbul. James G. on FACEBOOK