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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Consular Services for American Citizens Detained Abroad


Taken Question
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 4, 2014

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Question: Please provide more information on consular services provided to American citizens detained abroad.

Answer: We cannot share information about a specific U.S. citizen’s arrest without his or her written permission. Absent written authorization, we are unable to share details about individual cases with inquiring media.

Speaking in general terms, one of the most important tasks of the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated or detained abroad.

After local authorities notify the embassy or consulate of a U.S. citizen’s arrest or detention, a consular officer will visit the citizen as soon as possible (provided that the citizen agrees to the visit). In the initial visit, we ascertain the prisoner’s physical well-being and conditions of arrest. If the prisoner wishes, we can notify family and friends of the arrest. The consular officer will ensure that the citizen is not being mistreated. We protest allegations of abuse against U.S. citizen prisoners when requested to do so. We also ensure that the U.S. citizen is being treated in the same manner as other prisoners and not being singled out on account of his U.S. citizenship. We make sure he has access to necessary medicine, if his condition requires it. We can also assist with the transfer of funds to pay attorneys' fees, food, and medicine while incarcerated. For those incarcerated for a long period of time, consular officers will visit periodically—at least once every six months.

In a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to that country’s laws, even if they differ from those in the United States. Consular officers can provide a list of local lawyers and an explanation of the country’s judicial system, but cannot provide legal advice nor affect the release of arrested U.S. citizens.

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