Criminal Penalties in Afghanistan

While you are traveling in Afghanistan, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own and may not afford the protections available to you under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. In some areas of Afghanistan, you could be detained for questioning if you do not have your passport with you. Taking pictures of military installations or personnel may result in questioning or detention. Possession of alcohol and certainly driving under the influence of alcohol could land you in jail for three to six months. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. If you break local laws in Afghanistan, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what constitutes legal and illegal actions in the area where you are traveling. Persons violating Afghan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

Although the Afghan constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing may be viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society. Authorities take these matters very seriously. Afghan law carries a maximum penalty of death for those charged with proselytizing if convicted. Evidence may consist of possession of non-Islamic religious material, especially in local languages. Allegations of conversion of Afghan citizens are taken particularly seriously. The testimony of three individuals or a group is enough to convict someone of proselytizing. The same penalty exists in law for Afghan citizens who convert to another religion. All Afghan citizens are considered Muslim from birth. Converts are subject to arrest regardless of where the conversion took place, and Afghan-U.S. dual nationals are also subject to this law.

U.S. citizens have also been arrested by police in cases involving debt to Afghans. In Afghanistan, debts, and business disputes are not exclusively civil matters as may be the case in the United States. Instead, the aggrieved party may successfully have a U.S. citizen arrested in cases where a debt is alleged to be owed to an Afghan. The Ministries of Commerce and Interior, Afghan Investment Support Agency, the Afghan National Police, and the courts have all played roles in recent disputes involving U.S. citizens. If involved in a commercial dispute, hiring an Afghan attorney early can be beneficial. A list of English-speaking attorneys in the consular district of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul can be found on the Embassy’s website. The list comprises attorneys in Afghanistan officially registered with the Afghan Ministry of Justice who have expressed a willingness to carry out legal services for U.S. citizens. The Embassy does not endorse any particular attorney and the list is not comprehensive; we encourage those seeking legal advice in Afghanistan to utilize other means of finding an attorney.

While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained.


You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, and health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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