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The Global Legal Monitor is an online publication from the Law Library of Congress covering legal news and developments worldwide. It is updated frequently and draws on information from official national legal publications and reliable press sources. You can find previous news by searching the Global Legal Monitor.

Saudi Arabia: Authorities Launch New “Nation Without Violators” Campaign Targeting Illegal Foreign Workers

(Feb. 23, 2018) On February 12, 2018, the Public Security Division of the Ministry of Interior announced that it had launched a number of raids against illegal foreign workers violating the Saudi Residency Law of 1952. (Mohammed Rasooldeen, Expats Arrested for Violating Saudi Labor, Residency and Border Security Laws, ARAB NEWS (Feb. 12, 2018); Law No. 17-225-1337, as amended, art. 2, issued 4 May 1952, Ministry of Interior website.)

The raids came after the launch of a campaign called “A Nation Without Violators,” which targets foreign nationals who do not have valid residency permits for work in the kingdom or who came to the kingdom for purposes other than work and overstayed their visas. During these raids law enforcement officials arrested and detained not only foreign-national visa violators but also individuals who harbored those foreign nationals and facilitated the foreign nationals’ illegal residency. (Id.)

The number of foreign nationals who were arrested and detained for violating the Residency Law reached 562,961. (Id.) Moreover, as of January 23, 2018, 144 Saudi citizens had been arrested and charged with facilitating the violation of the Residency Law by foreign nationals. The Ministry of Interior has reportedly released 131 of them, with 13 still being detained. (The Number of Those Arrested Under “Nation Without Violators” Rose to 455,963, OKAZ (Jan. 23, 2018).)

In addition to the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Labor has joined the campaign against illegal foreign workers, declaring that it has assigned 800 labor inspectors to conduct visits to work sites across the kingdom. The inspectors have reportedly conducted 70,250 visits so far. The goal of those visits is to check the validity of foreign workers’ work permits and ascertain whether any employer has violated the Residency Law by employing illegal residents. (Nawal Al-Jabr, “A Nation Without Violators.” Order Is Above All, AL-RIYADH (Feb. 14, 2018).)

The Saudi Residency Law of 1952 imposes an array of sanctions against foreign nationals and Saudi nationals and employers who violate the provisions of the Law. (Law No. 17-225-1337, art. 2.) Article 50, for example, requires the imprisonment of illegal residents until their deportation from the country. (Id. art. 50.) Article 57 of the same Law penalizes with imprisonment any Saudi citizen who sponsors a foreign worker if the citizen fails to bring the sponsored foreign national to the authorities or direct the authorities to the foreign national’s location. Under this provision, the Saudi national is to be kept in detention until the authorities know where the sponsored foreign national is located. (Id. art. 57.) Article 58 imposes a fine against employers who have employed illegal foreign workers, and also stipulates that any company, commercial house, contractor, or businessman employing a foreign national who does not have a residency permit for the purpose of work is to be fined between 500 and 1000 riyals (about US$133–266) for each illegal foreigner worker. (Id. art. 58.)

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China: Rules Regulating Microblogs Issued

(Feb. 23, 2018) On February 2, 2018, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) released the Provisions on Administration of Microblog Information Services (the Provisions), which will take effect on March 20, 2018. The Provisions were formulated with the goal of promoting the healthy and orderly development of microblog information services, protecting the lawful rights and interests of citizens, and preserving national security and public interests. (Weiboke Xinxi Fuwu Guanli Guiding (Feb. 2, 2018), CAC website; Provisions on Administration of Microblog Information Services (Feb. 2, 2018), China Law Translate website (unofficial English translation).)

According to the Provisions, the term “microblog” refers to social network services used primarily for information distribution and acquisitions, mainly in the form of short words, pictures, and videos. (Id. art. 2.) The Provisions also clarify the definitions of “microblog service provider,” “microblog service user,” and “microblog information service.” (Id.)

The Provisions establish the various responsibilities of microblog service providers and microblog service users. According to the Provisions, the microblog service providers are required to

  • obtain relevant credentials as provided by laws and regulations (id. art. 4);
  • establish complete and comprehensive systems for registering users; verifying published information; managing posts, comments, and emergency responses; and providing education and training for practitioners (id. art. 6);
  • implement a “chief editor system” (id.);
  • establish platform service rules and sign service agreements with microblog service users (id.);
  • verify and periodically confirm microblog service users’ real identities (id. art. 7);
  • ensure the security of microblog service users’ information (id.);
  • establish and complete mechanisms for dispelling and refuting rumors (id. art. 11);
  • not use microblogs to publish or disseminate information that is prohibited by laws and regulations (id. art. 12);
  • accept public supervision and establish effective portals for complaints and reports (id. art. 14);
  • obey relevant state laws and regulations; cooperate with relevant supervisory, management, and law enforcement authorities; and provide necessary technical support and assistance (id. art. 16); and
  • keep records of microblog service users’ log information and preserve it for at least six months (id.).

Microblog service users, on the other hand, are required to

  • sign service agreements with microblog service providers (id. art. 6),
  • provide valid identification materials conforming to their authentication information when applying for upfront real-name verified accounts (id. art. 8), and
  • not use microblogs to publish or disseminate information that is prohibited by laws and regulations (id. art. 12).

According to the CAC, the promulgation of the Provisions is a step toward implementing and enforcing the PRC Cybersecurity Law. (Guojia Hunlianwang Xinxi Bangongshi Youguan Fuzeren Jiu Weiboke Xinxi Fuwu Guanli Guiding Da Jizhe Wen [CAC Answers Questions Raised by Reporters with Respect to the Provisions on Administration of Microblog Information Services], CAC website.)

Prepared by Yichao Zhang, Law Library intern, under the supervision of Laney Zhang, Senior Foreign Law Specialist.

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Kyrgyzstan: A Hat May Become a National Symbol

(Feb. 22, 2018) On January 8, 2018, Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament, the Zhogorku Kenesha, registered and opened for public discussion the recently introduced Bill on Recognizing the Traditional Headgear Ak kalpak as a Cultural Symbol. (Bill No. 6-220/18 of January 5, 2018, on Recognizing the Traditional Headgear Ak kalpak as a Cultural Symbol, KENESH.KG (Parliament’s website) (Jan. 8, 2018) (in Russian).)

According to the Bill, the white felt hat traditionally used by elderly Kyrgyz men will be recognized as a national symbol of the country together with the flag, anthem, and coat of arms. The Bill provides for this hat to become a mandatory part of attire for all Kyrgyz government officials during official foreign visits in order to “promote and preserve Kyrgyz traditions and culture.” The Bill emphasizes the duty of the President, Speaker of the Parliament, Prime Minister, and Members of the Cabinet to wear the Ak kalpak at formal events. A special provision of the Bill applies to Kyrgyz athletes, scholars, cultural figures, and exhibitors participating in international events at home and abroad. To be in compliance with the law, they must carry the Ak kalpak at official ceremonies. The Bill obligates the Cabinet of Ministers to draft rules for manufacturing, selling, importing, wearing, and carrying the Ak kalpak. It prescribes that only natural felt with organic wool can be used in producing the Ak kalpak. Kyrgyz penal legislation is to be amended to include punishments for offenses against the Ak kalpak. (Id. arts. 3 & 4.)

The Bill also designates March 5 as Ak kalpak Day, a holiday for celebrating Kyrgyz national spirit and cultural heritage. (Id. art. 2.) According to the Bill’s drafters, national caps exist in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. (Id., Justification for Adopting Bill No. 6-220/18.)

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Israel: Supreme Court Holds Threat of Suicide Not a Criminal Offense

(Feb. 15, 2018) On January 17, 2018, Israel’s Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of an appellant who had threatened to take her own life and been charged with committing a criminal threat under § 192 of the Penal Law, 5737-1977. The Court opinion was issued by Justice Dafna Barak-Erez, with Justices Uzi Vogelman and Hanan Melcer concurring. (CrimA 8736/15 Tsobari Bar v. State of Israel (Jan. 17, 2018), State of Israel: The Judicial Authority website (in Hebrew); Penal Law, 5737-1977 § 192, SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, official gazette] 5737, No. 864 p. 226, as amended.)

Background

The appellant, a woman of limited means who lives on a disability pension, was sued by her neighbor for harming his property by leaving bags of clothing at the entrance to their apartment building. Missing the deadline for responding to the lawsuit, the small claims court judge ruled against the appellant and ordered her to pay the plaintiff 30,000 Israeli Shekels (IS) (about US$9,000) in compensation. Liens were consequently levied against the appellant’s property. (CrimA 8736/15 ¶ 4; Revital Hovel, Supreme Court: Threat of Suicide Is Not a Crime, Don’t Want to Deter from Expressing Feeling of Distress, HAARETZ (Jan. 18, 2018) (in Hebrew).)

The appellant then sent a letter to the judge who had convicted her, stating that as a last resort she chose to commit suicide and hoped that her suicide would haunt the judge for the rest of her life. The letter was intercepted by the court security system, and the appellant was charged and convicted of committing a threat. She was sentenced to one month probation and a fine in the amount of IS1,000 (about US$300) to be implemented if she committed a similar offense within the following twelve months. The appellant’s subsequent appeal before the district court was rejected. (CrimA 8736/15 ¶¶ 4–9.)

The Offense of Committing a Threat

The Penal Law provides that

[a] person who in any manner, with intent to intimidate or annoy another, threatens him with unlawful injury to his body, freedom, property, reputation or livelihood or that of a third person is liable to imprisonment for three years. (Penal Law, 5737-1977 § 192 (translation by author).)

Supreme Court Determinations

According to Justice Barak-Erez the element of unlawfulness that is required to establish the offense of threat under § 192 of the Penal Law, 5737-1977 relates to the infliction of an “injury” that will materialize if the person threatened does not comply with the threat. In this case the question that should be asked is whether a threat to commit suicide constitutes unlawful harm to the human body and is therefore prohibited. (Id. ¶¶ 27–28.)

Barak-Erez determined that because in 1966 the Israeli law criminalizing suicide had been repealed, threatening suicide cannot constitute a basis for conviction under § 192, which prohibits one from threatening “unlawful injury” to the body of “another person” who is being threatened. (Id. ¶ 44.)

Recognizing that a threat to commit suicide may serve as a means of emotional manipulation and vindictiveness, Barak-Erez stated that it may also reflect a situation of crisis and even a call for help. (Id. ¶ 53.) The expression of suicidal thoughts may lead to the provision of treatment to prevent the suicide threat from being carried out. (Id. ¶ 55.) In Barak-Erez’s opinion,

[r]estraining freedom of expression by criminal law in situations of distress where suicidal thoughts arise in a person may therefore lead to a chilling effect on expressing feelings of distress and despair—before family members and friends or before treating professionals and welfare authorities. (Id. ¶ 57.)

The Court’s determination that the offense of threat in its current form was not intended to apply to threats of suicide, Barak-Erez held, does not affect the possibility of enacting a specific offense that would apply to such threats. Such legislation may in her view adopt different approaches to different situations, such as those involving suicide threats in spousal relationships as a means of harassment or exerting pressure, repetitive threats, or threats directed at a person who knows the threatening person and is therefore emotionally affected by that person. (Id. ¶ 59.)

Conclusions

Justice Barak-Erez decided that there was no reason to convict the appellant of attempting to threaten the judge as the appellant’s letter to the judge never reached her. (Id. ¶ 60.)

Judge Barak-Erez condemned the appellant’s sending of the letter as inappropriate behavior but did not consider it as constituting an offense. The appellant was therefore declared innocent of the offense of threat for which she had been convicted, and all penalties against her based on the conviction were to be vacated. (Id. ¶¶ 68–69.)

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Saudi Arabia: Twin Brothers Charged with Islamic Crime of Hiraba

(Feb. 9, 2018) On January 16, 2018, the Criminal Court of Riyadh began the trial of twin brothers accused of killing their 67-year old mother; attempting to kill their 73-year-old father and twenty-two year old brother; and accusing the rulers, police, and Muslim scholars of apostasy. (Saudi Arabia: Twins on Trial in Al-Hamra District Case in Riyadh, ASSAKINA (Jan. 16, 2018) (in Arabic); Sami Aboudi, Killing of Mother in Saudi Arabic Sparks Debate About Islamic Scholar, REUTERS (July 5, 2016).) The brothers, who were twenty years old when they committed their crimes, were arrested on June 24, 2016, by Saudi security forces while they were trying to flee across the border to Yemen. (Saudi Arabia: Twins on Trial in Al-Hamra District Case in Riyadh, supra; Killing of Mother in Saudi Arabic Sparks Debate About Islamic Scholar, supra.) The prosecution has called for the brothers to be sentenced to death. (Saudi Prosecution Tries Twin Brothers Who Beheaded Their Mother, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (Jan. 17, 2018) (in English).)

The public prosecutor is seeking to convict both defendants of the crime of hiraba, as described in verse 33 of Surat al-Maida of the Holy Koran. (Saudi Arabia: Twins on Trial in Al-Hamra District Case in Riyadh, supra.) Verse 33 of Surat al-Maida reads as follows:

It is but a just recompense for those who make war on God and His apostle, and endeavour to spread corruption on earth, that they are being slain in great numbers, or crucified in great numbers, or have, in result of their perverseness, their hands and feet cut off in great numbers, or are being [entirely] banished from [the face of] the earth: such is their ignominy in this world. But in the life to come [yet more] awesome suffering awaits them. (The Message of the Quran, translated and explained by Muhammad Asad, Arthur’s Classic Novels website (last visited Feb. 7, 2018).)

The crime of hiraba or qat‘ al-sabil (brigandage, highway robbery) is one of a handful of crimes known in Islamic law as hudud—that is, crimes whose punishment is prescribed by God. (Mohammad H. Fadel, Hiraba, or Brigandage, WORLD HISTORY (June 13, 2015).) Saudi Arabia is probably the only country that enforces the classical uncodified Islamic law of crimes. (Caryle Murphy, Saudi to Codify Sharia “for Clarity, NATIONAL (July 21, 2010).)

Some media reports have stated that the twin brothers committed their crimes on the basis of instructions they received from the terrorist organization known as Daesh (ISIS) and that the mother had objected to her sons joining Islamic State jihadists in Syria. (“Specialized Criminal Court” Begins Trial of Twin Brothers Who Killed Their Mother, OKAZ (Dec. 31, 2017) (in Arabic); Killing of Mother in Saudi Arabic Sparks Debate About Islamic Scholar, supra.)

Despite the fact that in court “the first defendant commented that he and his twin brother had not intended to commit the crime” and “denied having any association with terrorist organizations,” the General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, attributes the brothers’ crimes to the takfiri (extremist) ideology spreading in society and blames ISIS for relentlessly working “to hold the nation’s youth as hostage to its extremist thought.” (Saudi Prosecution Tries Twin Brothers Who Beheaded Their Mother, supra.) Saudi clerics have warned that the goal of ISIS is to put youth on “a path paved with violence, death, murder and terrorism and away from the teachings of Prophet Mohammed.” (Id.)

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