UPDATE: Guide to Research on Vienna Convention on Consular Relations Notification Requirements

By Barbara H. Bean

Updated by Cindy G. Buys

Cindy G. Buys is a Professor and Director of International Law Programs at Southern Illinois University School of Law. She holds an LLM from Georgetown University Law Center, a Juris Doctorate and a Master’s of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University, and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from the State University of New York at Albany.

Published July/August 2018

(Previously updated by Barbara H. Bean in June/July 2007; and by Cindy G. Buys in October 2015)

See the Archive Version!

1. Introduction

Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which 179 nations are party, requires a nation arresting or detaining a foreign national to afford the detainee access to his or her consulate and to notify the foreign national of the right of consular access. In a number of U.S. cases involving foreign nationals, defendants have raised the issue of failure by the detaining authorities to make the necessary notifications. Many of these cases have involved the death penalty and a number of cases have been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. A series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions have underscored the difficulty of this issue: treaties are negotiated on behalf of the United States, while arrests and prosecutions often are made on the local level. Although the principle of U.S. compliance with the treaty obligations is accepted, enforcement has been spotty, and there has been no meaningful penalty for non-compliance. Foreign governments have brought challenges to the United States in the International Court of Justice, which has ruled against the United States on three occasions during the period from 1998 through 2004. Following the latest ICJ ruling, the Bush Administration withdrew from the Optional Protocol to the Consular Convention submitting to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. This guide describes sources required to research the issue of compliance with the Vienna Convention notification obligations with a focus on the United States; whether the need is of a practical or scholarly nature.

2. Treaty Sources

2.1. Citations

2.2. Internet Resources

2.3. Subscription Databases

3. Ratification Information

4. Preparatory Works/Legislative History

4.1. United Nations

4.2. United States

5. State Department Resources

6. President’s Memorandum Directing Compliance with ICJ Decisions

7. U.S. Withdrawal from Optional Protocol/ICJ Jurisdiction

8. Selected Cases

8.1. United States

Selected U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals Cases:

8.2. International

9. State Statutes That Address Consular Notification in Case of Arrest or Detention of a Foreign National

Some states have by statute made Vienna Convention notification mandatory when a foreign national is arrested or addressed other aspects of consular notification:

10. Federal Regulations on Consular Notification in Federal Arrests

11. Secondary Sources

11.1. Selected Research Guides

11.2. American Law Reports

11.3.American Society of International Law (ASIL) Insights (Subscription Only)


11.5.Selected Law Review Articles

12. Non-U.S. Research

To locate cases, laws and secondary sources involving the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in non-U.S. jurisdictions, use databases of foreign cases and legislation, using the title of the treaty in the language of the country searched, e.g. Convention de Vienne sur les Relations Consulaires, Convencion de Viena sobre Relaciones Consulares. (Foreign titles can be found by looking in the United Nations Treaty Series).

A collection of foreign statutes, constitutional requirements, and court decisions implementing Article 36 rights and remedies, see Individual Consular Rights: Foreign Law and Practice (last updated in June 2015).