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International Narcotics Control Strategy Report -- Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control

Saudi Arabia

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report   -2005
Released by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

I. Summary

Saudi Arabia has no appreciable drug production and is not a significant transit country. Saudi Arabia's conservative cultural and religious norms discourage drug abuse. The Saudi Government places a high priority on combating narcotics abuse and trafficking. Since 1988, the Government has imposed the death penalty for drug smuggling. Due to these factors, drug abuse and trafficking do not pose major social or law enforcement problems. However, Saudi officials acknowledge that illegal drug consumption and trafficking are on the rise. Saudi and U.S. counternarcotics officials maintain excellent relations. Saudi Arabia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Saudi Arabia has no significant drug production and, in keeping with its conservative Islamic values and 1988 UN Drug Convention obligations, places a high priority on fighting narcotics abuse and trafficking. Narcotics-related crimes are punished harshly, and narcotics trafficking is a capital offense enforced against Saudis and foreigners alike. During 2004, the Saudi Government executed a number of people for narcotics-related offenses. Saudi Arabia maintains a network of overseas drug enforcement liaison offices and state-of-the-art detection and training programs to combat trafficking. While Saudi officials are determined in their counternarcotics efforts, drug trafficking and abuse is a growing problem. Since the Saudi government provides no statistics on drug consumption, interdiction, and trafficking, it is difficult to substantiate this assessment with hard data. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that Saudi Arabia's relatively affluent population, large numbers of idle youth, and high profit margins on smuggled narcotics make the country an attractive target for drug traffickers and dealers.

The Saudi Government undertakes widespread counternarcotics educational campaigns in the media, health institutes, and schools. The Narcotics Police are currently collaborating with the Presidency of Youth Welfare to produce a film for schoolchildren to educate them about the dangers of illegal drugs. Government efforts to treat drug abuse are aimed solely at Saudi nationals, who are remanded to one of the nation's four drug treatment centers in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Qassim. There are no separate facilities for Saudi women, and expatriate substance abusers are jailed and summarily deported. Health officials confirm anecdotal reports of an increase in drug abuse, but note that most addictions are not severe due to the scarcity of available narcotics and their diluted form. Heroin and hashish are the most heavily-consumed substances, but Saudi officials report that cocaine and amphetamines are also in demand. Paint/glue inhalation and abuse of prescription drugs is also reported.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. The lead agency in Saudi Arabia's drug interdiction efforts is the Ministry of Interior, which has over 40 overseas offices in countries representing a trafficking threat. In addition, the Saudi Government continues to play a leading role in efforts to enhance intelligence sharing among the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Accomplishments/Law Enforcement Efforts. Saudi and U.S. drug enforcement officials regularly exchange information on narcotics cases. Drug seizures, arrests, prosecutions and consumption trends are not matters of public record, although reports of drug seizures by Saudi officials appear occasionally in local newspapers. Saudi interdiction efforts tend to focus more on individual carriers than on follow-on operations designed to identify drug distributors and regional networks.

Corruption. There is no evidence of involvement by Saudi Government officials in the production, processing or shipment of narcotic and psychotropic drugs and other controlled substances.

Agreements and Treaties. Saudi Arabia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by its 1972 Protocol. Saudi Arabia has signed, but has not yet ratified, the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.

Cultivation/Production. Cultivation and production of narcotics in Saudi Arabia is negligible.

Drug Flow/Transit. Saudi Arabia is not a major transshipment point. Due in part to new detection techniques employed at major points of entry, seizures of narcotics (coming primarily from Pakistan, Nigeria and Turkey) have increased. Anecdotal evidence suggests that narcotics trafficking is a growing problem via the country's land borders.

Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). In addition to widespread media campaigns against substance abuse, the Saudi Government sponsors drug eradication programs directed at school-age children, health care providers and mothers. Executions of convicted traffickers (public beheadings which are widely publicized) are believed by Saudi officials to serve as a deterrent to narcotics trafficking and abuse. The country's influential religious establishment actively preaches against narcotics use and Government treatment facilities provide free counseling to male Saudi addicts.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. Saudi officials actively seek and participate in U.S.-Sponsored training programs and are receptive to enhanced official contacts with DEA.

Road Ahead. The U.S. will continue to explore opportunities for additional bilateral training and cooperation.

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