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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

9. U.S. Department of State telegrams sent to all U.S. diplomatic and consular posts abroad regarding assistance to American victims of serious crimes abroad, December 2001.



R 041750Z MAY 01











E.O. 12958: N/A



Subject: consular assistance for U.S. citizen victims of

Crime abroad, part i of three parts: CA's new victims of

Crime program.


Ref: (a)98 state 078279, (b)98 state 088610 (c)97 state

036928, (d)94 state 173444, (e)92 state 373496, (f)92

State 207698, (g)91 state 171458.







The purpose of this telegram is to alert posts to CA's

Victims of Crime program. This is the first of three

ALDACs regarding assistance for U.S. citizen victims of

crime abroad.

It is imperative that all serious crimes involving

Americans be reported promptly to the department. Serious

crimes include homicide, rape, kidnapping, terrorism,

assault, robbery, trafficking, child physical and sexual

abuse, domestic violence, and other crimes in which

victims suffer serious physical injuries and/or emotional

trauma. This telegram describes the goals of the new

Victims of Crime program. Two succeeding telegrams will

provide posts with background on the development of

specialized programs to serve crime victims in the U.S.

and abroad and a discussion of the consular role in

serious crime cases. We hope that these comprehensive

guidelines will enhance posts' ability to assist victims

and their families. End summary.


New Consular Victims of Crime program


1. The department recognizes and appreciates the efforts

of consular officers to assist traumatized U.S. citizen

crime victims in a compassionate and professional manner.

building on our experience in terrorism and other high

profile crime cases, CA/OCS initiated a program in june

2000 to promote greater consistency in our response to

American victims of all serious crimes abroad, and to

further enhance the assistance provided. Pursuant to an

interagency agreement with the department of justice,

Office for Victims of Crime (DOJ/OVC), CA/OCS hired a

victim assistance specialist with expertise in the impact

of crime on victims, the range of services that may be

required, and how services may be accessed. Our Victim

Assistance specialist, Jane N. Sigmon, works in

CA/OCS/PRI. By working with posts abroad since the

program began, we have had some excellent results in

obtaining better services for U.S. victims of serious

crime abroad.

2. For example, following the murder of an American in

front of his pregnant wife and three young children in the

Philippines, post assisted the family with the return of

the remains, and expressed the interest of the U.S.

Government in the proper handling of the investigation.

CA/OCS referred the pregnant widow to the California Crime

Victim Compensation program, which has reimbursed her for

most of the cost of the burial, and will pay loss of

support benefits and for counseling for her and the

children (approximately $46,000). We also helped her

contact a crime victim assistance program near her home

for counseling. And finally, we worked with the visa

office to expedite the immigrant visa application for her

mother to join her in the U.S. before the birth of her

baby. While not all programs are as generous as

California's, compensation represents a significant

financial resource for many victims.

3. In cases of rape, we have provided posts with

informaton about the medical and emotional needs of rape

victims. We have also referred victims returning to the

U.S. to rape counseling programs in their home communities

and state crime victim compensation programs that may pay

for medical treatment, counseling and other expenses, if

insurance is not available. In cases of child sexual

abuse, we have worked with family members of victims to

arrange for comprehensive multi-disciplinary evaluation

and treatment at children's advocacy centers in the u-s.

and facilitated contacts with crime victim compensation

programs that pay for counseling for child victims.

4. Goals of our Victims of Crime program:

-- to ensure that U.S. citizen victims of crime abroad and

their families receive necessary services while still in

the foreign country, and that those continue if

appropriate and desired, upon return to the United States;

-- to promote a more consistent response to crime victims


-- to promote consistent front channel reporting of

serious crime incidents involving Americans;

-- to enhance consular officers' understanding of the

impact of crime on victims and key principles of victim


-- to expand referrals to appropriate specialized victim

assistance and compensation programs;


-- to have available a reference list of help providers in

each state; and

-- to modify our automated case tracking systems to obtain

better information on the nature and location of crimes

against U.S. citizens abroad.






5. A proactive approach is essential in serious crime

cases. We hope that this program will assist posts in the

conduct of this very important service to the public in

fulfillment of our statutory, regulatory and treaty

obligations. Parts ii and iii of this guidance which

follow by SEPTEL provide information related to resources

and specific services to assist crime victims.


6. We encourage posts' comments and questions regarding

the new Victims of Crime program and other issues raised

in this telegram. . . . .

Znr uuuuu zzh

R 041821z may 01

Fm secstate washdc

To all diplomatic and consular posts

Special embassy program

Zen/pristina pouch

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Zen/belgrade pouch


Unclas section 01 of 03 state 079109

Inform consuls and consular agents

E.o. 12958: n/a

Subject: consular assistance for U.S. citizen victims of

crime abroad, part ii of three parts: Crime Victim

Assistance and Compensation programs and resources.






The purpose of this telegram is to provide posts with

information on crime victim assistance and compensation

programs in the U.S., programs for victims abroad, and

information resources to assist posts. This is the second

of three messages regarding assistance for U.S. citizen

victims of serious crimes abroad. The first described

CA's new Victims of Crime program. The third telegram on

this topic will provide posts with a discussion of the

consular role in serious crime cases involving American


Serious crimes include homicide, rape, kidnapping,

terrorism, assault, robbery, trafficking, child physical

and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and other crimes in

which victims suffer serious physical injuries and/or

emotional trauma. End summary.


U.S. programs to assist and compensate crime victims


1. The treatment of crime victims in the U.S. has

received extensive attention from federal and state

legislators, policy-makers and the media in the last

decade. All states and the federal government have enacted

laws that specify the rights of crime victims and more

than half of the states have amended their state

constitutions to include victims' rights.

2. Thousands of specialized victim assistance programs

have been established throughout the U.S. to provide

crisis intervention, counseling, emergency shelter,

emergency transportation, and criminal justice advocacy

and information to crime victims. These programs are

usually available to local residents who have been victims

of crime while traveling abroad. Services are often

provided at little or no cost to the victim.

3. Crime victims compensation can be a crucial financial

resource for many Americans traveling abroad. Each state,

The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S.

Virgin islands has a crime victim compensation program

That reimburses its residents who are crime victims for

certain expenses that result from crime and are not

covered by insurance. These primarily include medical,

counseling, funeral expenses, loss of support, and lost

wages. Contact information for state victim compensation

programs is currently available at the website listed in

paragraph 8 of this cable and will soon be available on

the CA intranet.

4. Funding for local victim assistance and compensation

programs comes from each state's resources and the U.S.

Department of Justice office for victims of crime

(DOJ/OVC). OVC administers the crime victims fund, which

is derived from fines and penalties paid by federal

criminal offenders. Since 1988 OVC has distributed more

than $3 billion to states to supplement their efforts to

help crime victims. OVC is also developing a new

Emergency Assistance and Crime Victims Compensation

Program for victims of terrorist attacks and other mass

violence in the U.S. or overseas. For more information

about this new program contact CA/OCS/PRI.


Foreign programs and applicable international principles



5. Many other countries have enacted victims' rights laws

and developed specialized victim assistance services and

compensation programs. Based on information gathered by

posts in 1998, 27 countries operate crime victim

compensation programs that may cover foreign nationals

(including U.S. citizens) who are victims of violent crime

in the country. CA/OCS will soon ask posts to verify and

update information about the compensation program in your


6. There is also a variety of international instruments

related to the plight of victims of crime. Most are in

the form of non-binding declarations that articulate the

rights of crime victims and the types of assistance that

should be provided. Focusing host government attention on

the principles of these instruments, where applicable, may

be useful. The most extensive of these instruments is the

U.N. declaration of basic principles of justice for

Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (VCAP), adopted by

General Assembly resolution 40/34 of 29 November 1985, and

approved by unanimous vote of all member nations. A key

principle of the VCAP U.N. declaration is that victims

should be treated with compassion and respect and granted

access to justice for the harm suffered. (see


Information resources and outreach



7. CA/OCS has amassed considerable materials regarding

assistance to victims of a variety of serious crimes

including rape, murder, hostage taking, child abuse, and

domestic violence which may be helpful to posts and is

available to posts on request. We are in the process of

designing a special feature for the CA home page on the

internet ( on victims of crime. At

present, some links to information on victims of crime

assistance are available on the following existing

features on the CA home page:

-- crisis overseas -;

-- judicial assistance -;

-- child protection -

8. The department of justice office for victims of crime

has extensive information on crime victim assistance and

compensation programs offered in each state, an

international directory of crime victims compensation

programs, and links to additional specialized

organizations and information on its internet website:


9. CA/OCS/PRI is revising the 7 FAM to more adequately

address issues related to consular services to victims of

crime. We will also be preparing individual pamphlets for

victims of various types of crimes including homicide,

rape, domestic violence, crimes against children, hostage-

taking/kidnapping, and a specialized pamphlet on

victim/witnesses to assist victims who return to the

foreign country to testify. The first training program

focused on consular assistance to American citizen crime

victims will be offered in May 2001 at FSI. Material from

this program will also be incorporated into other consular

training programs at FSI

10. Finally, our public outreach and speaking program

also includes segments about assistance to victims of

crime abroad. The subject was included in recent

testimony of the managing director for overseas citizens

services before two subcommittees of the U.S. House of

Representatives: the Subcommittee on Oversight and

Investigations, Committee on Education and the Workforce

on October 4, 2000, and the Subcommittee on National

Security, Veterans affairs, and International Relations,

Committee on government reform on April 3, 2001.




11. Specialized services and resources to assist crime

victims have expanded considerably in recent years.

Posts' awareness of these resources will enable you to

better assist American citizens who are victims of crime


12. We encourage posts' comments and questions regarding

the new Victims of Crime program and other issues raised

in this telegram. Please do not hesitate to contact

CA/OCS/PRI via telegram, e-mail or fax (202-647-6201). We

have established a special consular e-mailbox for your

comments and questions about the Victims of Crime program

at Comments may also be addressed

directly to CA/OCS/PRI: Edward Betancourt and Monica Gaw.

Minimize considered.


Znr uuuuu zzh

R 041830z may 01

Fm secstate washdc

To all diplomatic and consular posts

Special embassy program

Zen/pristina pouch

Zen/freetown pouch

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Zen/belgrade pouch

Info ruekjcs/secdef washdc 2371

Rueaiia/cia washdc 6992

Rueawja/dept of justice washdc

Ruetiaa/dirnsa fort george g meade md


Unclas section 01 of 05 state 079120

Inform consuls and consular agents

E.o. 12958: n/a

Subject: consular assistance for U.S. citizen victims of

crime abroad, part iii: guidance on provision of services.




The purpose of this telegram is to give posts guidance on

consular services that should be provided to assist

American citizens who are victims of serious crime abroad.

this is the third of three messages regarding crime victim

assistance. Two previous telegrams provided posts with

information on the goals of CA's Victims of Crime program,

crime victim assistance and compensation programs in the

U.S. and abroad, and additional resources. ALDACs related

to specific types of crime such as rape, homicide, child

abuse, and domestic violence will be issued in coming

months to discuss key issues in assisting victims of these

crimes. End summary.


Victim needs and principles of responding


1. It is not our intention that consular officers perform

the functions of psychologists, psychiatrists, social

workers, or other such professionals. It is our hope that

understanding what is happening to the victim and the

victim's family after the crime will enhance our

collective ability to assist the victim.

2. In the immediate aftermath of crime, victims need

reassurance that they are safe, protection from further

harm, and a supportive environment where they can regain

control of their lives. Victims who are in shock may be

unaware of dangers that they face or injuries they have

sustained. Also, victims often need to ventilate their

feelings about the crime and to obtain information about

criminal justice proceedings related to their case.

Crime victim's safety and security

3. The first concern of a post in serious crime cases

should be the physical safety of the victim and his/her

immediate medical needs. Issues of physical safety and

sense of security relate to whether the assailant has been

identified, apprehended, or threatened to return. Victims

often feel unsafe if they have been victimized in their

hotel room, home or dormitory and are expected to return

there after medical treatment or making a police report.

Fear may be alleviated by a change in hotel room or the

company of a friend or family member. In some cases,

victim safety must be coordinated with local law


Crime victim's immediate medical and physical needs

4. Assisting crime victims to receive appropriate medical

treatment is critical. This may involve actions such as

persuading local authorities to move the patient to a

specially equipped facility such as one with special

services to assist victims in rape cases, helping the

family talk to air ambulance services, or requesting EMDA

or repatriation authorization. Since a victim may not

recognize his/her need for treatment, post should be

proactive in encouraging medical examination after a

serious violent crime and coordinating with the victim's

family and host country authorities. Depending upon the

crime and the circumstances, post should also assess the

victim's need for assistance with basic physical

necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing.

The importance of listening

5. Victims often need to talk about what happened and

ventilate their emotions. Listening with great care is

important to victims. Validating the victim's reactions of

anger, fear, guilt, and grief as normal is helpful.

victims should be reassured that such reactions are "not

uncommon" for someone who has been through such a trauma.

It is not/not generally helpful to use phrases such as "I

know how you feel" or to provide comparisons from your own

personal experience. Some victims have difficulty talking

about what happened due to fear, embarrassment, or shock

and denial. Thus post should be alert to identifying

individuals in distress and offering appropriate

assistance. (for example, one traumatized rape victim

contacted post for a list of doctors, without mentioning

the recent rape.) See 12 fah-1, EPH, appendix v, Disaster

Assistance handbook, Consular Assistance, Chapter 9 and

Exhibit k for guidance regarding conversations with

families in crisis, which includes victims of crime and

their families. This is available on the CA

intranet/intranet page at http://caweb/disasst.pdf.

Keeping crime victims informed of what will happen next

6. Providing victims with information about what will

happen next (predicting) helps victims to prepare and thus

regain control of their lives and restore the equilibrium

that has been lost. For many victims, everyday events may

trigger traumatic memories of the crime and feelings such

as panic, fear, grief, or anger. These are common

reactions to traumatic events, and their impact is

lessened if victims are prepared for them.

Traumatic memories may also be triggered when victims

retell events to police and participate in criminal

justice proceedings. Victims can feel even more

vulnerable and confused when they must deal with a foreign

government and an unfamiliar judicial system conducted in

a language they do not understand. Listening to victims'

concerns and providing information and support will help

to alleviate anxiety in many cases.

Providing information about host country criminal justice


7. Victims usually want and need information about the

criminal justice process. Information often helps victims

to reduce feelings of loss of control and confusion and to

prepare for significant events in their case. A brief

written summary of the foreign criminal justice process,

including information about the investigation, arrest,

detention/release of a defendant, filing of criminal

charges, prosecution, sentencing, and appeal stages is

helpful to victims. We provide similar information for

all U.S. citizens arrested and incarcerated abroad per 7

FAM 413.4. We believe that it is appropriate for posts to

prepare an information sheet about the host country

criminal justice process to be made available to victims

of crime. CA/OCS/PRI would be pleased to work with posts

to tailor local information in a manner which would be

helpful to victims. In the coming months we will design a

template with questions in plain language which may aid

posts in creating a host country specific information

sheet for U.S. citizen crime victims. This will be

transmitted by separate ALDAC.


Consular role in serious crime cases


Quick response

8. Posts should respond to serious crimes expeditiously

and using principles discussed in this cable and crisis

management techniques (12 FAH-1, EPH, Apendix V, DAH,

Consular Assistance). Working in concert, posts and OCS

can target critical issues requiring special attention and

offer assistance and referrals for appropriate services.

First contact

9. Whether by phone or in-person, the first contact by an

American citizen crime victim or a victim's concerned

family member is an opportunity for post or the department

to begin support and assistance, and sets the tone for

future interactions. An important yet simple first

message to a victim is an expression of empathy,

acknowledging the suffering and grief of the victim and

the victim's family. "I am sorry that (the crime)

Happened to you. I am here to help you." effort should

also be made to establish a designated point of contact in

such cases as soon as possible so that victims and their

family members do not have to repeatedly tell their story

to several different people.

On-scene presence

10. In cases of violent crime with serious physical

and/or psychological injuries to Americans, it is

important that a consular officer and perhaps an FSN or

others be on the scene as quickly as possible. This may

force hard choices about what functions go undone, and

senior post managers must be involved in decision-making

if the incident occurred a considerable distance from the

Post and travel to the scene is not feasible, repeated

contact with the victim and/or his/her family by the

consular or duty officer via telephone is essential. If

there is an American community near the victim, it may be

possible to enlist the assistance of a private citizen

volunteer (to make initial inquiries and even to visit the

U.S. citizen victim in the local hospital). At the same

time, the consular officer should contact the hospital and

police authorities directly to ascertain what is happening

and maintain contact with the victim and local authorities

until the situation is stabilized. If a friendly nation

has a post near the scene of the incident, enlisting their

temporary consular assistance may be another alternative.

Coordination with the host government and local resources

11. Consular work in crime victim cases requires close

coordination with the host government and a knowledge of

existing specialized services and resources that may be

available to assist Americans. This includes contact with

officials such as police, prosecutors, coroners, and the

ministries of foreign affairs and justice. Consular

officers should work closely with U.S. law enforcement

agencies to ensure the proper and expeditious handling of

criminal cases involving American victims. In addition,

posts should become knowledgeable about medical, mental

health, and social service agencies or organizations that

provide specialized victim services that may be needed,

such as rape examinations and crisis counseling, shelter

from domestic violence, child protection, grief counseling

for survivors of homicide victims, and crime victim



What to do to assist victims - a quick reference list


12. Consular officers provide many of the services

outlined below. Our intention in listing them here, even

the more obvious ones, is just to provide a quick

reference list in cases which may by nature be very

emotional. Upon learning that a U.S. citizen has been the

victim of a serious crime, post should take the following


13. Establish immediate contact with the victim and/or

family, express empathy that the victimization occurred or

condolences for the victim's loss, and validate victim's

"normal" reactions to the traumatic event. Listen.

14. Report incident to the department immediately by

phone followed by a cable. Include pertinent details:

-- name and DPOB of victim, passport number, date/place of


-- nature of the crime

-- medical condition, location of the victim

-- affiliation of victim (employer, school, missionary

group, tour group, etc.)

-- NOK or other points of contact

-- consular services provided and additional services


-- whether a police report was made

-- in death cases: cause of death, location/condition of

remains, local autopsy requirements, estimated time for

release of remains; forensic identification requiring

coordination with nok (dna tests, etc.), if applicable.

15. Establish a proactive "case-worker approach" in which

the family talks primarily to one person who is

responsible for communication about the case. Provide the

victim with the designated person's name and contact

information. The department will also identify a contact

in CA/OCS/ACS who will facilitate communication with post

as necessary. (for description of the caseworker approach

See 12 FAH-1, Appendix v, Disaster Assistance Handbook,

consular assistance available on ca intranet at

www.caweb/disasst.pdf and 7 fam 423).

16. Assess and address safety issues and immediate

emergency medical and physical needs of the victim in

coordination with local authorities. Assist with

immediate basic needs, such as shelter, food, clothing,


17. Involve local crime victim assistance specialty

programs where available and appropriate, e.g., rape

crisis intervention, child protective services, shelters

for battered women, and other victim support schemes.

18. Consult with CA/OCS to identify additional services

that can be provided, including referral to specialized

victim assistance programs and crime victim compensation

in the U.S. your primary contact in CA/ocs will be your

regular ACS country officer, who will liaise with Jane

Sigmon, CA/OCS victim assistance specialist.

19. Ascertain the status of the police investigation into

the incident and request a copy of the police report to

provide to the victim, with translation if possible.

update as necessary.

20. As usual, assist the victim with the practical

consequences of the crime, such as facilitating contact

with family, arrangements for a prompt return home, etc.

21. Help the victim to regain control of his/her life by

providing information about what to expect in the

immediate future (for example, anticipated treatment,

changes in hotel arrangements, law enforcement action, how

return of recovered stolen property is handled, etc.)

22. Provide the victim with information about the host

country criminal justice process and points of contact for

information about the investigation and prosecution of the

case. If victim contact with local law enforcement or

prosecutors is impractical, consular or U.S. law

enforcement officers at post should serve as the point of

contact for information about the progress of the case.

victims need timely notification of significant case

progress and dates of important court proceedings,

preferably in writing. Contact with victims and/or their

families should be made at predictable intervals or more

frequently if needed.

23. If victims return to the foreign country to testify

personal safety, emotional support, and payment of

expenses are often important concerns. Regarding personal

safety, consular officers should assist victims with

contacts with local law enforcement and requests for

attention to this matter. CONOFF should be mindful that

testifying about a violent crime is often traumatic for

the victim. It is helpful for victims to be accompanied

by family members or friends who can provide support

during and immediately after the trial. Post should also

consider having a representative attend a trial or key

phases of a trial involving an American victim of a

serious crime. See 7 FAM 942 (travel of witnesses) and 7

FAM 431 (trial attendance in arrest cases).

24. Written records should be maintained of significant

communications with families, congressional offices,

insurance companies, foreign governments, etc. This can

be in the form of a log.

25. Guidance in responding to press inquiries should be

given to the victim as necessary. This subject was

addressed extensively by the inter-agency task force on

assistance to families of aviation disasters which made

specific recommendations to the media regarding respect

for victims. Appendix f of the task force's final report

Of 10/29/97 provided the following guidance for families:

"organize and plan how you will respond to media

inquiries. If it is helpful, include family, friends or

other victims or survivors in your planning process. You

do not have to speak to the media. It is your decision

how much if any involvement you have with the media. Any

contact should be on your terms." the task force report

and the information for families is also available on the

CA home page disaster victim feature. Questions about

this subject should be coordinated by posts with



Privacy act considerations


26. We will be working on a SEPTEL providing more

specific guidance on the information collection,

maintenance, and disclosure issues that will inevitably

arise. The privacy act, a recent addition to the U.S.

Criminal code permitting U.S. prosecution in certain

conspiracy cases with overseas victims, and the

department's participation in a broader legislated program

for disclosure of information to families of victims of

overseas violence, all suggest the need for specific

guidance in this area.




27. In addition to the bureau of consular affairs, many

other department offices are involved in questions

regarding crime. Posts should use the following tags for

cases of serious crimes against U.S. citizens abroad:

CASC, KCRM, KJUS, ASEC, and if applicable, PTER. We

recognize that many posts make initial notification to the

department regarding U.S. citizen victims of serious crime

abroad via telephone or email. This must be followed

promptly by reporting telegrams.




28. We appreciate the thoughtful approach of officers to

cases involving victims of crime abroad. While we

recognize that a "one-size-fits-all" response to crime

victims is impractical and inappropriate, we believe that

the principles outlined above should guide your response

and that the reference list of tasks will prove useful in

most cases.

29. We encourage posts' comments and questions regarding

the new Victims of Crime program and other issues raised

in this telegram. . . . .

Minimize considered.


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