Whether you’re getting ready for Summer vacation or you travel abroad on business, you have probably watched carefully the story of reports Euna Lee and Laura Ling, sister of news correspondent Lisa Ling.
Being arrested abroad is a serious situation. Other countries don’t offer the protection that the United States offers.
The story of news correspondents catches national attention, but don’t think it can’t happen to you. Annually thousands of Americans are arrested on foreign soil. Outside of the US and the Philippines, you cannot call your local bondsman to bail you out. Some countries do offer cash bail, but many detain defendants for trial.
Ling and Lee, were arrested in North Korea and kept in jail for nearly 10 weeks awaiting trail. The two were reportedly treated harshly and kept in conditions that would be shocking and scary to most Americans. Now, they have been sentenced to 12 years of labor camp for unspecified “hostile acts.”
If you are traveling to another country, take time to understand local laws because you will need to follow them. Assuming laws are the same or similar, or even that you can use common sense, is not enough. Many countries carry harsh penalties for drug offenses and indecency (by their standards), but in the case of the journalists it seems they were arrested simply for entering the country. It is wise to know how to get in touch with the US Consulate in the country. However, a smart traveler realizes that the ability of the consulate to act beyond notifying family is very limited. As you plan your summer trip, maintain awareness of local laws and political situations.