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Saudi Arabia-Crime and Punishment

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Saudi Arabia Index

The incidence of crime was considered to be relatively low in Saudi Arabia, and violent street crime was particularly unusual. Crime rates had, however, risen with the presence of foreign workers. An increase noted in the level of petty crime in 1989 was linked to unemployment among Saudis and Yemeni residents of the kingdom. The severity of penalties and the rigid system of enforcement were credited by both officials and ordinary citizens with contributing to the high standards of public safety. Supporters of severe punishment believed that, although carried out infrequently, a beheading or stoning reminded the people that such penalties remained in force. Some observers disagreed, citing cultural traits and the social forces bearing on Arabs of the peninsula as the main inhibiting factors.

According to the Statistical Yearbook published by the Ministry of Finance and National Economy, the most common crimes in 1988 were theft (7,553 cases), the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol (5,085 cases), altercations and quarreling (3,651 cases), and moral offenses (2,576 cases). There were fifty-six murders and 340 cases of attempted and threatened murder. There were twenty-nine cases of arson and 574 cases involving forgery or fraud.

Crimes subject to the death sentence included murder, apostasy from Islam, adultery, drug smuggling, and sabotage. Under certain conditions, rape and armed robbery could also lead to execution. Executions could be carried out by beheading, firing squad, or stoning of the convicted person in a drugged state. All seventeen executions carried out in 1990 were by beheading.

The sharia sets forth rigorous requirements for proof of adultery or fornication. For the crime of adultery, four witnesses to the act must swear to having witnessed the crime, and if such an accusation does not hold up in court, the witnesses are then liable to punishment. No one was executed for adultery in 1990, although during 1989 there were reliable reports of nonjudicial public stonings for adultery.

Under the sharia, repeated theft is punishable by amputation of the right hand, administered under anesthetic. Because of its severity, a number of qualifications have been introduced to mitigate the punishment. If the thief repents and makes restitution before the case is brought before a judge, the punishment can be reduced; furthermore, the victim can demand recompense rather than punishment or can grant a pardon. Highway crime was considered a crime against public safety and thus subject to more severe punishment. Aggravated theft can be punished by cross-amputation of a hand and a foot. Such cases have been unusual, but Amnesty International reported four of them in 1986. In 1990 fewer than ten hand amputations took place, at least five of which were administered to foreigners.

Flogging with a cane was often imposed for offenses against religion and public morality, such as drunkenness and gambling and the neglect of prayer requirements and fasting. Although the flogging was painful, the skin was not broken. The purpose was to degrade rather than cripple the offender and serve as a deterrent to others. United States citizens have been flogged for alcoholrelated offenses, usually receiving from thirty to 120 strokes. A Kuwaiti sentenced to prison in connection with terrorist bombings in Mecca was condemned to receive a total of 1,500 lashes over the course of his twenty-year sentence.

In 1987, based on a ruling by the ulama, drug smugglers and those who received and distributed drugs from abroad were made subject to the death sentence for bringing "corruption" into the country. First-time offenders faced prison terms, floggings, and fines, or a combination of all three punishments. Those convicted for a second time faced execution. By the end of 1987, at least nine persons had been executed for offenses that involved drug smuggling, most of them non-Saudis. According to the police, the antidrug campaign and the death penalty had by 1989 reduced addiction by 60 percent and drug use by 26 percent. By late 1991, more than 110 drug sellers had been arrested since the law was put into effect. Saudi officials claimed that the kingdom had the lowest rate of drug addiction in the world, which they attributed to the harsh punishments and the pious convictions of ordinary Saudis. Drug use was said to persist, however, among wealthy younger Saudis who acquired the habit abroad. Drug users included some members of the royal family, who took advantage of their privileged status to import narcotics.

Data as of December 1992

BackgroundSaudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king's official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman AL SAUD (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. A male descendent of Ibn Saud, his son ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz, rules the country today as required by the country's 1992 Basic Law. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after the liberation of Kuwait became a source of tension between the royal family and the public until all operational US troops left the country in 2003. Major terrorist attacks in May and November 2003 spurred a strong on-going campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism. King ABDALLAH has continued the cautious reform program begun when he was crown prince. To promote increased political participation, the government held elections nationwide from February through April 2005 for half the members of 179 municipal councils. In December 2005, King ABDALLAH completed the process by appointing the remaining members of the advisory municipal councils. The king instituted an Inter-Faith Dialogue initiative in 2008 to encourage religious tolerance on a global level; in February 2009, he reshuffled the cabinet, which led to more moderates holding ministerial and judicial positions, and appointed the first female to the cabinet. The country remains a leading producer of oil and natural gas and holds more than 20% of the world's proven oil reserves. The government continues to pursue economic reform and diversification, particularly since Saudi Arabia's accession to the WTO in December 2005, and promotes foreign investment in the kingdom. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all ongoing governmental concerns.
LocationMiddle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen
Area(sq km)total: 2,149,690 sq km
land: 2,149,690 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Geographic coordinates25 00 N, 45 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 4,431 km
border countries: Iraq 814 km, Jordan 744 km, Kuwait 222 km, Oman 676 km, Qatar 60 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1,458 km

Coastline(km)2,640 km

Climateharsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: Jabal Sawda' 3,133 m
Natural resourcespetroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper
Land use(%)arable land: 1.67%
permanent crops: 0.09%
other: 98.24% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)16,200 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)2.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 17.32 cu km/yr (10%/1%/89%)
per capita: 705 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsfrequent sand and dust storms
Environment - current issuesdesertification; depletion of underground water resources; the lack of perennial rivers or permanent water bodies has prompted the development of extensive seawater desalination facilities; coastal pollution from oil spills
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - noteextensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal
note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 38% (male 5,557,453/female 5,340,614)
15-64 years: 59.5% (male 9,608,032/female 7,473,543)
65 years and over: 2.5% (male 363,241/female 343,750) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 21.6 years
male: 22.9 years
female: 19.9 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)1.848% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)28.55 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)2.47 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-7.6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 82% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.5% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.29 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.06 male(s)/female
total population: 1.18 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 11.57 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 13.15 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 9.91 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 76.3 years
male: 74.23 years
female: 78.48 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)3.83 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Saudi(s)
adjective: Saudi or Saudi Arabian
Ethnic groups(%)Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%

Religions(%)Muslim 100%

Country nameconventional long form: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
conventional short form: Saudi Arabia
local long form: Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Suudiyah
local short form: Al Arabiyah as Suudiyah
Government typemonarchy
Capitalname: Riyadh
geographic coordinates: 24 38 N, 46 43 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions13 provinces (mintaqat, singular - mintaqah); Al Bahah, Al Hudud ash Shamaliyah (Northern Border), Al Jawf, Al Madinah, Al Qasim, Ar Riyad (Riyadh), Ash Sharqiyah (Eastern), 'Asir, Ha'il, Jizan, Makkah, Najran, Tabuk
Constitutiongoverned according to Islamic law; the Basic Law that articulates the government's rights and responsibilities was promulgated by royal decree in 1992

Legal systembased on sharia law, several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage21 years of age; male
Executive branchchief of state: King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 1 August 2005); Heir Apparent Crown Prince SULTAN bin Abd al- Aziz Al Saud (half brother of the monarch); note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since 1 August 2005); Deputy Prime Minister SULTAN bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud; Second Deputy Prime Minister NAYIF bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud
cabinet: Council of Ministers is appointed by the monarch every four years and includes many royal family members
elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; note - a new Allegiance Commission created by royal decree in October 2006 established a committee of Saudi princes that will play a role in selecting future Saudi kings, but the new system will not take effect until after Crown Prince Sultan becomes king

Legislative branchConsultative Council or Majlis al-Shura (150 members and a chairman appointed by the monarch for four-year terms); note - though the Council of Ministers announced in October 2003 its intent to introduce elections for half of the members of local and provincial assemblies and a third of the members of the national Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura incrementally over a period of four to five years, to date no such elections have been held or announced

Judicial branchSupreme Council of Justice

Political pressure groups and leadersAnsar Al Marah (supports women's rights)
other: gas companies; religious groups
International organization participationABEDA, AfDB (nonregional member), AFESD, AMF, BIS, FAO, G-20, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OAS (observer), OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Flag descriptiongreen, a traditional color in Islamic flags, with the Shahada or Muslim creed in large white Arabic script (translated as "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God") above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); design dates to the early twentieth century and is closely associated with the Al Saud family which established the kingdom in 1932

Economy - overviewSaudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. It possesses more than 20% of the world's proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 80% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. About 40% of GDP comes from the private sector. Roughly 6.4 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors. High oil prices through mid-2008 have boosted growth, government revenues, and Saudi ownership of foreign assets, while enabling Riyadh to pay down domestic debt. The government is encouraging private sector growth - especially in power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration, and petrochemicals - to lessen the kingdom's dependence on oil exports and to increase employment opportunities for the swelling Saudi population, nearly 40% of which are youths under 15 years old. Unemployment is high, and the large youth population generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs. Riyadh has substantially boosted spending on job training and education, infrastructure development, and government salaries. As part of its effort to attract foreign investment and diversify the economy, Saudi Arabia acceded to the WTO in December 2005 after many years of negotiations. The government has announced plans to establish six "economic cities" in different regions of the country to promote development and diversification. The last five years of high oil prices have given the Kingdom ample financial reserves to manage the impact of the global financial crisis, but tight international credit, falling oil prices, and the global economic slowdown will reduce Saudi economic growth in 2009.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$577.9 billion (2008 est.)
$553.5 billion (2007 est.)
$535.8 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$469.4 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)4.4% (2008 est.)
3.3% (2007 est.)
3.1% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$20,500 (2008 est.)
$20,100 (2007 est.)
$19,800 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 3.1%
industry: 61.9%
services: 35% (2008 est.)
Labor force6.74 million
note: about 80% of the labor force is non-national (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 6.7%
industry: 21.4%
services: 71.9% (2005 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)11.8% (2008 est.)
13% (2004 est.)
note: data are for Saudi males only (local bank estimates; some estimates range as high as 25%)
Population below poverty line(%)NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)19.4% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $293.7 billion
expenditures: $136 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)9.9% (2008 est.)
4.1% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$113.2 billion (31 December 2008)
$102.4 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$134.3 billion (31 December 2008)
$109.5 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
$66.94 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$246.3 billion (31 December 2008)
$515.1 billion (31 December 2007)
$326.9 billion (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$26.29 million (2005)

Public debt(% of GDP)18.9% of GDP (2008 est.)
75% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productswheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus; mutton, chickens, eggs, milk
Industriescrude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, ammonia, industrial gases, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), cement, fertilizer, plastics, metals, commercial ship repair, commercial aircraft repair, construction

Industrial production growth rate(%)2.4% (2008 est.)

Current account balance$132.6 billion (2008 est.)
$96.77 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$313.4 billion (2008 est.)
$234.1 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)petroleum and petroleum products 90%
Exports - partners(%)US 17.1%, Japan 15.2%, South Korea 10.1%, China 9.3%, India 7%, Singapore 4.4% (2008)
Imports$108.3 billion (2008 est.)
$82.6 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles
Imports - partners(%)US 12.2%, China 10.5%, Japan 7.7%, Germany 7.4%, South Korea 5.1%, Italy 4.8%, India 4.2%, UK 4.1% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$30.59 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$34.01 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$82.13 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$58.6 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$108.5 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$92 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$18.07 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$16.99 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Exchange ratesSaudi riyals (SAR) per US dollar - 3.75 (2008 est.), 3.745 (2007), 3.745 (2006), 3.747 (2005), 3.75 (2004)

Currency (code)Saudi riyal (SAR)

Telephones - main lines in use4.1 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular36 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: modern system
domestic: extensive microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, and fiber-optic cable systems; mobile-cellular subscribership has been increasing rapidly
international: country code - 966; landing point for the international submarine cable Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) and for both the SEA-ME-WE-3 and SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable networks providing connectivity to Asia, Middle East, Europe, and US; microwave radio relay to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Yemen, and Sudan; coaxial cable to Kuwait and Jordan; satellite earth stations - 5 Intelsat (3 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean), 1 Arabsat, and 1 Inmarsat (Indian Ocean region) (2008)
Internet country code.sa
Internet users7.7 million (2008)
Airports217 (2009)
Pipelines(km)condensate 212 km; gas 1,880 km; liquid petroleum gas 1,183 km; oil 4,239 km; refined products 1,148 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 221,372 km
paved: 47,529 km (includes 3,891 km of expressways)
unpaved: 173,843 km (2006)

Ports and terminalsAd Dammam, Al Jubayl, Jiddah, Yanbu' al Sinaiyah
Military branchesMinistry of Defense and Aviation Forces: Royal Saudi Land Forces, Royal Saudi Naval Forces (includes Marine Forces and Special Forces), Royal Saudi Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Malakiya as-Sa'udiya), Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces, Royal Saudi Strategic Rocket Forces, Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age (est.); no conscription (2004)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 8,547,441
females age 16-49: 6,381,098 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 7,486,622
females age 16-49: 5,652,819 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 278,179
female: 267,905 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)10% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalSaudi Arabia has reinforced its concrete-filled security barrier along sections of the now fully demarcated border with Yemen to stem illegal cross-border activities; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue discussions on a maritime boundary with Iran

Refugees and internally displaced personsrefugees (country of origin): 240,015 (Palestinian Territories) (2007)
Trafficking in personscurrent situation: Saudi Arabia is a destination country for workers from South and Southeast Asia who are subjected to conditions that constitute involuntary servitude including being subjected to physical and sexual abuse, 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 unable to seek help; Saudi Arabia is also a destination country for Nigerian, Yemeni, Pakistani, Afghan, Somali, Malian, and Sudanese children trafficked for forced begging and involuntary servitude as street vendors; some Nigerian women were reportedly trafficked into Saudi Arabia for commercial sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 3 - Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the government continues to lack adequate anti-trafficking laws and, despite evidence of widespread trafficking abuses, did not report any criminal prosecutions, convictions, or prison sentences for trafficking crimes committed against foreign domestic workers (2008)
Electricity - production(kWh)179.1 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)165.1 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)10.78 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)2.38 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)8.728 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)79,250 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Economic aid - donorsince 2002, Saudi Arabia has provided more than $480 million in budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority, supported Palestinian refugees through contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), provided more than $250 million to Arab League funds for the Palestinians, and pledged $500 million in assistance over the next three years at the Donors Conference in Dec 2007; pledged $230 million to development in Afghanistan; pledged $1 billion in export guarantees and soft loans to Iraq; pledged $133 million in direct grant aid, $187 million in concessional loans, and $153 million in export credits for Pakistan earthquake relief; pledged a total of $1.59 billion to Lebanon in assistance and deposits to the Central Bank of Lebanon in 2006 and pledged an additional $1.1 billion in early 2007

Oil - proved reserves(bbl)266.7 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)80.44 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)80.44 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)7.319 trillion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.01% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDSNA
HIV/AIDS - deathsNA
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 78.8%
male: 84.7%
female: 70.8% (2003 est.)

Education expenditures(% of GDP)6.8% of GDP (2004)

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