What Saudi law says about a travel ban
Everyone knows what a travel ban is, the legal reasons for imposing one, and how it may affect individuals — or at least they think they do. What are the facts?
Essentially, a travel ban is a legitimate precautionary measure that may be issued by the Minister of Interior, the head of State Security, or the judiciary, which is to say the judge in a competent court. The aim is to ensure that a person being sued or investigated remains inside the Kingdom, so they can be present at the time of the hearing or the investigation.
The Travel Document Law requires that such a ban may be imposed only for a specified and limited period, and that the subject of the travel ban must be officially informed within one week from the date of issuance.
In addition to being the subject of a lawsuit or an investigation, there are other circumstances in which a person may be banned from leaving the Kingdom, mainly breaches of the Travel Document Law.
These include deliberately altering the information on a passport; holding a travel permit from a noncompetent authority; intentionally altering or defacing the photo in a passport or travel permit; negligence leading to the loss of a passport or a travel permit; and enabling others to use the passport or the permit illegally, or to sell or mortgage them.
Other offenses include using or attempting to use a passport or travel permit that belongs to someone else, or to assist in that activity; and to enter or leave the Kingdom other than through the official ports without a valid reason for doing so.
Of course, a travel ban may also be lifted, and there are several ways to achieve this. For example, a person being sued may go to court and deposit the financial amount that is the subject of the legal action. In addition, the court may decide to discontinue the case, or it may be discontinued at the court’s discretion because of the death or disqualification of the plaintiff. Other possibilities are the plaintiff’s failure to register the original lawsuit within seven days of filing a travel ban, or a judgment issued in the original lawsuit being overturned.
It is important for everyone to know as much as possible about a sensitive subject such as a travel ban, and whether its conditions apply to them. Arguably, it is even more important that we all know our rights when it comes to having a travel ban lifted.
• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers.