12 Countries With Shockingly Severe Laws

FUN FACTS September 15, 2017 By Hugo

A nation's penal system may not be the first thing that comes to mind when travelling abroad, but many are unaware that the pettiest of offences can sometimes be deemed highly criminal in other parts of the world.

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Indeed, whether it's being found in possession of illegal firearms or just an ounce of marijuana, many countries aren't playing around when they warn you that offenders will be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

With that said, we chronicle 12 nations where even minor offences can end with a long stretch inside. 

12. Japan

Like many Asian countries, Japan doesn't mess around when it comes to punishing drug offenders. And that's not just concerning drugs which cause natural highs. Its Pharmaceutical Affairs Law also comes down heavy on medications that are found to cause life-changing addictions and as such 68 types of them have already been banned. 

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Moreover, due to the Japan's strong sense of community, anyone sentenced to prison will have to rely on relatives for necessities. In fairness, Japan's crime rates are lower than most other nations in the Western world, but its penal system is often a cause for concern among many human rights groups.

11. Sweden

Sweden may be one of the happiest nations on earth, but in recent years it's come down heavily on drug use following laws that allowed doctors to prescribe methamphetamines to drug users which saw an extra 2,000-3,000 drug addicts in just a couple of years. 

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Because of these unintended consequences, all drugs are illegal, and police aren't shy in enforcing compulsory urine and blood tests to anyone suspected of drug use.

10. Vietnam

As well as punishing drug dealers in ways many countries would deem unethical; Vietnam also spares no mercy to users.

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Known as the Department of Social Evils, the government administration sends offenders to labour camps where torture, violence, and backbreaking work is an everyday occurrence. 

9. The United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates may be a place full of modern furnishings and high-rise buildings, but their laws are outdated and harsh. In fact, the UAE’s drug laws come down hard on all drug use- including alcohol. 

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Punishments, in agreement with their strict interpretation of Islamic law often include public lashings for natives and 1-6 months in a detention centre for foreign nationals found consuming alcohol. In more severe cases, it is not uncommon for judges to hand down death sentences by the barbaric method of stoning.

8. Morocco

While the North African country may only be an hour's boat ride away from the liberal nation of Spain, the laws couldn't be more different.

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Drug offences are often the crimes Moroccan courts come down hardest on due to the country's reputation as a major drug trafficking port. If found guilty, 10-year prison sentences are not unheard of.

7. China

China executes more people than anywhere else on Earth and because of this human rights groups have regularly campaigned for China to become less draconian. But China is a nation that isn't intimidated by anyone, and it will soon overtake America as the richest nation on Earth.


It's probably for these reasons that the communist government has little qualms in dealing with offenders. In 2002, for instance, 12,000 people were killed for an array of crimes, many of which were drug-related. 

6. Saudi Arabia

Known for its barbarous laws, many Saudis follow one of the stricter interpretations of Islam, known as Wahhabism. Because of this, Sharia Law is strictly adhered to more so than any other place on Earth meaning that drugs like alcohol are considered illegal.

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As for drug dealers? Their punishment is treated with the same severity as those found guilty of murder and rape; death by beheading. 

5. Indonesia

The Indonesian courts have come under increasing pressure in recent years to modernise their laws involving drug trafficking after many foreign nationals were executed. A notable example was perhaps the executions of the Bali Nine ringleaders, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

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Parents of drug addicts can also find themselves in prison if they don't report their children to the police.

4. Iran

Iran has long been a country on the list of human rights groups for their laws involving the death of anyone found guilty of same-sex relations and over 10,000 prisoners have been executed in the last decade alone.

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Even those caught with just a few ounces of marijuana are dealt with by public flogging.

3. Malaysia

Malaysia is a place strewn in paradise but governed by laws that would make even the most ardent of law-abiding citizens worried.

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Yes, this country means business with their laws, so much so that capital punishment is in place for anyone caught with seven ounces of marijuana. Even if it's only an ounce, the offender will most likely be imprisoned for a long time. 

2. Singapore

Singapore is known for being one of the safest places on Earth, and that's widely attributed to its strict laws. In fact, if you walk down any street in Singapore, you'll likely find no litter or black chewing gum stains. Why? Because chewing gum has been outlawed.

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As for the more serious crimes? Well, as well as severe crimes like rape and murder, drug traffickers are treated no differently and are usually hung to death. Like in Malaysia, Singapore's definition of a drug dealer differs significantly to other areas of the world. All it takes is 17 ounces of marijuana or half an ounce heroine or cocaine to be considered one.

 To put things into perspective, from the years 1991-2004, around 400 people were sentenced to death in Singapore for drug trafficking, many of whom were foreigners.

1. North Korea

Viewed by many as the most authoritarian place on Earth, North Korea is a place where being arrested means one thing: years of forced labour. Many foreign nationals, such as the American Otto Warmbier were sentenced to many years in such camps for crimes as trivial as stealing a political poster.


But with a country ruled by a nihilistic leader who forces his citizens to get their haircut once every two weeks, North Korea is quite clearly the most limiting place on Earth to be a citizen- let alone a prisoner.

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