PART II: DON'T GET ARRESTED IN THESE COUNTRIES
In early 2019, there were about 3,000 Americans being held in foreign countries. Some of those Americans are, by virtue of their location, far more likely to make it home in a timely fashion. Which countries have quick and just legal systems, and which ones tend to skew the judicial process?
Countries that Return Americans
As you would probably guess, developed countries with democratic governments do a better job of pumping people, including Americans, through the justice system. If you’re arrested in a “first world” country such as Australia, Japan, or a Western European country, you’ll likely be treated fairly.
Countries that Hold Americans
You really don’t want to be arrested in a communist country, such as Russia, China, or North Korea. While many of these countries have court systems in place, these have often been compromised by inadequate separation of power, as in the case of Russia’s justice system. This results in many U.S. citizens being held for long periods of time under suspicious circumstances. In one case from early 2019, Paul Whelan was arrested for being a U.S. spy after he was apprehended with a USB drive containing classified information; his lawyer claims that the device was planted.
Circumstances in North Korea are even worse. The most famous example may be the case of Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia student who went to North Korea on vacation, was caught trying to steal a propaganda poster off a building, and spent the next 17 months being ostensibly tortured. He died soon after he was released, in a comatose state, back to his parents.
Third-world countries that still developing—and thus sometimes have unstable governments—can also be problematic for incarcerated Americans. Countries like Iran and Egypt are known for detaining Americans, such as Michael White, a veteran who was held in Iran in early 2019 for unknown reasons. Iran in particular has been detaining about 25 Americans per year since 1979, sometimes for reasons that are unclear.
The Best Option? Don’t Get Arrested
Obviously, it’s better to avoid being arrested at home or abroad. But if you are going to be arrested outside of the U.S., you’ll be better off behind bars in Ireland than in Iran. That being said, if you are planning a trip to a country in which being arrested could be very problematic, there are precautions you can take. Read our next installment to find out more.
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