Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

U.S. Citizens in DRCongo are subject to Congolese laws and legal procedures. However, Americans arrested or detained in DRC have the right to communicate with an American Consular Officer. Such communication allows the consular section to monitor a detainee’s general welfare and ensure, as far as possible, that the U.S. citizen’s individual rights are observed as consistent with local practices and that proper treatment is accorded under internationally accepted standards. In addition, if the detainee requests assistance, the Consulate can facilitate communication with family and friends, provide a list of attorneys, and assist in arranging the transfer of personal funds from the U.S. to pay legal or other costs.

Please be aware, however, that a Consular Officer cannot arrange for the release of anyone, or act as an attorney or the detainee’s personal representative when dealing with Congolese prison authorities. Furthermore, the U.S. Government does not provide bail money or pay attorney fees. Detainees who wish to raise an issue with prison authorities should follow appropriate channels within the institution.

In all communications with the Consular Officer, the right to privacy is protected by U.S. law under the Privacy Act. The Embassy or consulate will not release information related to the detained U.S. citizen to anyone — regardless of their relationship to the citizen — unless the detainee specifically authorizes the release by signing a Privacy Act Waiver.

When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented.  It can be more difficult because the prisoner is in unfamiliar surroundings, and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system.

The Consulate can help:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen with their written permission
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Help ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care for you
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Inform the detainee of local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime that may be available to them
  • If they would like, ensuring that prison officials are permitting visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of your choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens

The Consulate cannot:

  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail overseas
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court overseas
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees for U.S. citizens overseas