Crime in Saudi Arabia

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The rate of crime in Saudi Arabia is often described as low by foreign ministries and other sources,[1][2][3] however official crime rates maybe misleading as criminal complaints are sometimes resolved outside formal judicial institutions or otherwise unreported.[4]

"Crime in Saudi Arabia is relatively low when compared to some developed nations, but may be increasing due to higher levels of foreign workers and higher levels of unemployment among Saudi residents."

— John Wilson, on the crime situation in Saudi Arabia, in the book International Security and the United States: An Encyclopedia[5]


Foreign affairs ministries of different countries state that there is a low rate of crime in Saudi Arabia.[1][2][3] However criminology researcher Dr. Ali Wardak in the book Transnational and Comparative Criminology suggested ranking societies on the basis of official crime rates is problematic. He argued it is possible in Saudi Arabia that several criminal complaints are resolved outside formal judicial institutions and as a consequence remain undocumented by the police.[4] According to the US State Department Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), "U.S. citizens and Westerners continue to report incidents of crime, including robberies and attempted robberies." Cases of sexual assault are believed to be underreported "because victims are customarily blamed".[6] (One 23-year old woman was sentenced to a year in prison and 100 lashes in 2009 for adultery after being raped by five men. A 19-year old victim of rape by seven men receiving a sentence of six-months in jail and 200 lashes in 2007. [6])


Petty theft is a problem especially in crowded areas.[1] The nation has strict laws prohibiting drug trafficking; drug trafficking is a capital crime. Despite strict laws, however, illicit trafficking takes place in considerable amounts through underground channels especially marijuana, cocaine and homegrown psychedelic drugs.[7] Saudi Arabia is a signatory to all three international conventions on drug control.[8] To curb money laundering, improved anti-money laundering laws have been enacted.[7] The country has implemented all the forty recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) for combating money laundering and all eight recommendations of the FATF regarding terror financing. A Financial Intelligence Unit exists for the purpose of monitoring flows of funds.[9]

The most common crime in 2002 was theft, which accounted for 47% of total reported crime.[5] Saudi Arabia is a destination point for workers from South and Southeast Asia who are subjected to conditions which include involuntary servitude, non-payment of wages, confinement and withholding of passports as a restriction on their movement. Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable because some are confined to the house in which they work and are unable to seek help. Saudi Arabia is also a destination country for children trafficked from other Middle Eastern countries like Yemen, African countries like Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan and Asian nations like Pakistan and Afghanistan for the purpose of forced begging and involuntary servitude as street vendors. Some Nigerian women were reportedly trafficked into Saudi Arabia for commercial sexual exploitation.[7]


Threat of Islamic terrorism is a matter of concern.[10] The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of the Government of Australia claimed they received reports that terrorists are masterminding attacks against assets belonging to the Government of Saudi Arabia, oil infrastructure, aviation infrastructure, embassies, hotels, shopping malls and many Western interests such as residential housing complexes, gatherings of foreign tourists for recreational or cultural activities etc.[1] The United States Department of State reported "There is an on-going security threat due to the continued presence of terrorist groups, some affiliated with al Qaida, who may target Western interests, housing compounds, and other facilities where Westerners congregate".[11] Terrorist attacks in the country targeted both native people and foreigners. DFAT further stated "Terrorist attacks could occur at any time, anywhere in Saudi Arabia, including in Riyadh, Khobar, and other major cities".[1]


In 1988, the murder rate in Saudi Arabia was 1.1 per 100,000 population, sexual offenses were 21.9 per 100,000 population, and thefts were 70.5 per 100,000.[12] In 2002, a total of 84,599 crimes were reported in Saudi Arabia, or 387 crimes for every 100,000 people. By 2006 those numbers had gone down with murder at 65.3 per 100,000 population, sexual offenses at 58.6 per 100,000, and thefts offenses at 70.5 per 100,000.

Moral law[edit]

The Saudi legal system is based on Islamic law and thus often prohibits many activities that are not crimes in other nations, but are deemed to be immoral, such as alcohol or pork consumption, public displays of non-Islamic religious symbols or text, affection between opposite sex, "indecent" artwork or media images, homosexuality, cross-dressing, fornication or adultery. One of the main organizations enforcing traditional Islamic morality in the kingdom is the "Religious Police" or Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. It is difficult to know, with any certainty, how many people have been charged or punished for violating these laws.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Saudi Arabia Government of Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  2. ^ a b Saudi Arabia Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  3. ^ a b Saudi Arabia Department of Foreign Affairs
  4. ^ a b James Sheptycki, Ali Wardak, James Hardie-Bick (2005). Transnational and Comparative Criminology. Routledge Cavendish. pp. p93. ISBN 1-904385-05-2. 
  5. ^ a b Karl R. DeRouen, Paul Bellamy (2007). International Security and the United States: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. p674. ISBN 0-275-99253-5. 
  6. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia 2013 Crime and Safety Report". OSAC Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c Saudi Arabia The World Factbook
  8. ^ Country Profiles - Saudi Arabia United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
  9. ^ First independent human rights organization in Saudi Arabia
  10. ^ Watching a Saudi Succession The New York Times
  11. ^ Saudi Arabia United States Department of State
  12. ^ James Sheptycki, Ali Wardak, James Hardie-Bick (2005). Transnational and Comparative Criminology. Routledge Cavendish. pp. p95. ISBN 1-904385-05-2.