Currently, most countries in the Middle East do not have dedicated anti-corruption codes. However, in recent decades, there has been increased interest in addressing bribery and corrupt practices. Many countries have created national anti-corruption national strategies to address the challenges presented by widespread corruption.
The following is a brief overview of the crime of bribery and other corrupt activities laws in certain Middle Eastern countries as described in two historical Law Library reports now available in the online collection:
- Bribery and Other Corrupt Practices: Legislation in Certain Foreign Countries (1995)
- A Compilation of Bribery and Extortion Laws in OPIC Countries (1976)
I have referenced the laws currently in force along with highlights of some unique features of the laws of each jurisdiction.
Anti-corruption provisions are included in several Egyptian laws. Bribery as a criminal act is covered by articles 103 through 111 of Law No. 58 of 1937, the Penal Code of Egypt as amended, in the section on Crimes against the Internal Security of the State. (See Bribery and Other Corrupt Practices p. 26.) The law also contains provisions related to the theft and destruction of public funds. We can also find articles that target bribery in the Public Tenders Law, Law No. 9 of 1983.
Bribery provisions are included in the Jordanian Criminal Code, Law No. 16 of 1960, under the section on Crimes against Official Duties. (See A Compilation of Bribery and Extortion Laws in OPIC Countries pp. 49-50.) Article 170 prescribes a relatively light sentence of imprisonment for six months to two years for public officials who accept a gift or benefit as a bribe.
Iran’s first anticorruption law was enacted in 1925. (See Bribery and Other Corrupt Practices pp. 57-59.) In 1936, the Law on Exerting Undue Influence was passed. For the crime of undue influence, the law prescribes a punishment of six months to two years and the return of the acquired profit. (See Bribery and Other Corrupt Practices p. 58.) The most recent legislation to deal with bribery (as of the time this report was published in October 1995) was an all-embracing anti-bribery law passed in December 1988. (See Bribery and Other Corrupt Practices p. 58.) Articles 588–596 of Book 5, Chapter 11, Bribery, Usury and Fraud, of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran, enacted on May 22, 1996, address bribery crimes and prescribe punishments. (Book 5 was not subject to the 2012 amendments and 2013 revision of the Penal Code, according to the version published by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, dated July 15, 2013.)
The Penal Code of 1960 includes provisions on bribery and corrupt practices of public officials, covered in articles 114-125. Law No. 31 of 1970 amended provisions of the Penal Code concerning bribery to harden the penalties for such crimes addressed by the old law. (See Bribery and Corrupt Practices pp. 74-76.)
Punishments for the crime of bribery are described under the Corruption and Exercise of Influence section of the Criminal Code of Morocco, Ordinance No. 1-59-413 of 1962. Article 251 contains a notable mention of violence and threats within the overall meaning of bribery. (See A Compilation of Bribery and Extortion Laws in OPIC Countries pp. 61-62.)
Saudi anti-bribery legislation, the Royal Decree for Combating Bribery, Decree No. 15 of 1962, is broadly based on bribery-related articles of the Egyptian Criminal Code. (See A Compilation of Bribery and Extortion Laws in OPIC Countries pp. 107-110.) The Decree targets public servants as well as private persons who seek to bribe government officials. Article 1 stipulates that accepting or requesting a gift or promise, “even though it is a lawful act,” is considered corruption on the part of a public official. Royal Decree M/36 dated 29/12/1412H, corresponding to 27/6/1992G, is the current legislation that addresses bribery crimes.
Decree of 1913, the Penal Code of Tunisia, is based on French legislation. (See Bribery and Other Corrupt Practices pp. 104-105.) The law defers to the courts to establish definitions of bribery and corrupt practices. However, the Code clarifies the meaning of the term “public official” as including persons who try to bribe or illegally influence public officials. Article 87 includes an interesting provision regarding a “public or similar official who brags that he has influence and good connection with another official,” prescribing a punishment of five years of imprisonment for such an official. The current Tunisian Penal Code governs bribery crimes in chapters 83-94.
Bribery articles are included in Yemeni Law No. 22 of 1963, the Law Concerning Crimes against Public Authority. (See A Compilation of Bribery and Extortion Laws in OPIC Countries pp. 133-135.) In matters dealing with the intermediary in the bribery, article 59 punishes the person who offers a bribe and the intermediary with the same penalty imposed on the bribed individual. Current legislation, the Republican Decree for Law No. 12 for the Year 1994, Concerning Crimes and Penalties, contains bribery provisions in articles 151-161.