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What role for India in the protection of their citizens abroad?

Fulfilling Our Treaty Obligations and Protecting Our Citizens Abroad
29 Jul, 2011

The protection of U.S. citizens abroad ranks among the Secretary’s and the Department’s absolute highest priorities” – was the key point stressed by Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management, United States in his Statement Before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on July 27, 2011.

The US is very much concerned about the safety of their citizens who travel around the world throughout the year for business, vacation, employment etc., and are detained on charges of various types. Immediately on receipt of notification of such cases, Consular support is made available to them.

The Vienna Convention is the base for such activities. Government of India could also render similar Consular assistance to protect its helpless citizens who suffer in the prisons and custody of Police in foreign countries and the GCC (Gulf) countries in particular. Some of the salient points of the statement of Patrick F. Kennedy are quoted below for consideration and implementation by the Government of India to protect the lives of Overseas Indians.


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The protection of U.S. citizens abroad ranks among the Secretary’s and the Department’s absolute highest priorities. Senators, all of you have constituents who travel and live overseas. Your constituents are among the 4.5 million Americans who live abroad, the estimated 60 million who traveled abroad last year and the 103 million who hold passports – all of whom depend on consular protections, as much as they depend on passports and visas, to ensure their safe passage through foreign countries.

To protect Americans in foreign custody, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations – a binding U.S. treaty – mandates three simple rules: ―ask, notify, and allow access. First, the Consular Notification Compliance Act is essential to ensuring that we will be able to protect American citizens. Without guaranteed consular assistance, Americans cannot travel the world freely, safely, and with peace of mind, whether for tourism, business, education, family matters, military service, or countless other activities.

In 2010 alone, consular officers conducted more than 9,500 prison visits, and assisted more than 3,500 Americans who were arrested abroad. Ensuring protection of citizens in foreign countries has been a time-honored component of government-to-government relations for centuries. Our consular notification and access obligations are part of a system that requires reciprocal compliance.

The Vienna Convention, an extraordinarily important treaty, was signed by a Democrat – President Kennedy – in 1963, and transmitted to the Senate by a Republican – President Nixon – in 1969. It was ratified the same year with this body’s unanimous approval. Overseas, other countries likewise respect our citizens’ consular rights. Our consular officers work unflaggingly to ensure the safety and welfare of U.S. citizens in foreign custody, performing thousands of prison visits annually on behalf of Americans from all over the United States.


According to the statement of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the State Department has no greater responsibility than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas – particularly when Americans find themselves in the custody of a foreign government, facing an unfamiliar, and at times unfair, legal system. Last year alone, our consular officers conducted over 9,500 consular visits with more than 3,500 Americans who were in the custody of foreign governments.

Through the international system of consular assistance – a system that has evolved over centuries and today is reflected in binding U.S. treaties– we are able to reach our citizens in these vulnerable situations and help them receive food and medical assistance, communicate with their families, and provide them with information regarding foreign legal systems and how they can access legal counsel overseas. In return, the United States has committed to permit foreign officials to provide the same assistance to their own citizens who are arrested here.

To protect our citizens, we need to do our part to protect those of other countries. Because enactment of this bill serves our critical interests in protecting our citizens, preserving our foreign policy relations, and abiding by our promises under vital treaties we have ratified, I join the Department of Justice and the rest of the Administration in urgently calling on Congress to pass this narrow and carefully crafted legislation.

The Consular Notification Compliance Act—is a carefully crafted piece of legislation which seeks to ensure that the United States keeps these treaty promises. The bill provides practical steps for federal, state and local authorities to follow to comply with consular notification rules. This protective system of consular assistance depends on mutual compliance with these obligations by the United States and our treaty partners. If the United States fails to honor our legal obligations toward foreign nationals in our custody, the fabric of this protective system is torn, and ultimately it is Americans who are harmed. And although we work strenuously to honor these commitments, unfortunately at times our own compliance has broken down. Read full text: "Fulfilling Our Treaty Obligations and Protecting Americans Abroad...”

Consular Notification Compliance Act

To facilitate compliance with Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, done at Vienna April 24, 1963, and for other purposes.
IN GENERAL: As required under, and consistent with, Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, done at Vienna April 24, 1963 and any comparable provision of a bilateral international agreement addressing consular notification and access, if an individual who is not a national of the United States is detained or arrested by an officer or employee of the Federal Government or a State or local government, the arresting or detaining officer or employee, or other appropriate officer or employee of the Federal Government or a State or local government, shall notify that individual without delay that the individual may request that the consulate of the foreign state of which the individual is a national be notified of the detention or arrest. Download: Consular Notification Compliance Act

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