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What Rights Do You Have in Other Countries?

May 11, 2008
One of the most forgotten realities for people who travel abroad on vacation is that they do not realize their United States Constitutional rights do not exist anymore. The right to counsel, unreasonable search and seizures, and self incrimination are not carried with you in your luggage.

The laws of that country and the local laws of that jurisdiction rudely fall upon the U.S. citizen when least expected. For example, some countries will not let you leave their country with your children unless you either have both parents present or at least written permission by the absentee parent to travel with your children.

There are so many different laws and customs that it is imperative for one to learn it before entering that country. Particularly, if driving in that country, find out the laws on using a driver's license from another country.

The United States Supreme Court has recently heard arguments on a case that addressed U.S. citizens in Iraq wanting the U.S. to first hear their arguments.

Two U.S. citizens, challenged their detention by U.S. forces in Iraq. They entered Iraq after the war. One was a translator for journalists, and the other stated he was seeking reconstruction work.

However, the U.S. claimed that they were terrorists. The U.S. military detained them so they could be turned over to the Iraqis for trial and potentially execution. The men stated they were not guilty and contended that they were entitled to a hearing in the U.S. courts to test the basis for their detention before being turned over.

The Deputy Solicitor General representing the Bush administration, told the justices that when U.S. citizens go abroad, they cannot then come back to the U.S. courts to complain about their arrest and trial in other countries.

Justice Kennedy brought up if it was right to hand them over to a lynch mob.

Justice Antonin Scalia stated that "To say that the whole world has the protections of the U.S. Constitution is extravagant!" even though it was the U.S. forces that detained the American citizens. Justice Scalia intimates that their U.S. protections are still not warranted.

This case has not yet been decided but it is only hearing this case because the U.S. detained them. Otherwise, if they were arrested by a foreign country, they would be subject to that country's laws.

Remember if arrested or detained, insist on talking with the U.S. Embassy where they will assist you in how you are treated and prosecuted. This is in accordance with a treaty enacted in 1969 that guaranteed foreign nationals access to diplomats from their home countries if they are accused of crimes. There are 171 countries part of this, also called the Vienna Convention rights.
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Knowing your legal and consumer rights is your best defense.
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