Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

While in Suriname or French Guiana, U.S. citizens are subject to its laws and regulations.  Persons violating the law in Suriname or French Guiana, even unknowingly, may be fined, arrested, caned and/or deported.  If detained, a U.S. citizen will have to go through the Surinamese or French legal process for being charged, prosecuted, and possibly convicted and sentenced.  It is important to keep in mind that the legal process in Suriname or French Guiana can differ significantly from the one in the United States and may not provide the same protections available in the United States.

The U.S. Embassy will do all that it can to ensure that a U.S. citizen accused of a crime in Suriname or French Guiana is not discriminated against under local Surinamese or French law, but it will not be able to guarantee the same protections available under U.S. law.

U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families; however, they cannot interfere in the Surinamese or French judicial process.

If a U.S. citizen is arrested, the embassy Consular Officials should be notified immediately.  This may be done by the police at the time of arrest, or by a friend or relative of the detainee.

A consular officer offers the following services:

  • Visit a U.S. citizen in jail after being notified of the arrest.
  • Regularly visit a U.S. citizen detained in Suriname or French Guiana.  During these visits the consular officer can check on the health and well-being of the detainee, and the treatment provided by the Surinamese or French authorities.
  • Notify a family member or friend of the arrest and relay any requests the detainee may have.
  • Assist family and friends in the U.S. who wish to send money to the detainee.
  • Provide information about judicial process in Suriname or French Guiana.
  • Provide a list of local attorneys.
  • Facilitate communications with family, friends, and legal counsel (subject to local law and regulations).
  • Work to ensure that the detainee receives fair and humane treatment in accordance with Surinamese or French law and international norms.
  • Follow the progress of the case in the judicial system.
  • Transfer money, food, clothing, and other items to the prison authorities from family, friends and/or donated by the local community (subject to local laws and regulations).
  • Provide dietary supplements (vitamins/minerals), if necessary.
  • Provide information on availability of U.S. government loans to prisoners under the Emergency Medical/Dietary Assistance (EMDA) program for destitute Americans incarcerated abroad.
  • Arrange for medical and dental care, if not provided by prison authorities (to be paid from detainee’s funds).
  • Protest any mistreatment by local officials while incarcerated.

A Consular Officer is not authorized to perform the following:

  • Intervene in the Surinamese or French justice system or obtain the release of U.S. citizens from jails.
  • Represent a U.S. citizen in legal proceedings or give legal advice.
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees for U.S. citizens overseas
  • Contract an attorney to represent a U.S. citizen in court.
  • Provide funds for bail.

Privacy Act

The provisions of the Privacy Act are designed to protect the privacy and rights of Americans, but occasionally they complicate our efforts to assist citizens abroad.  As a rule, consular officers may not reveal information regarding an individual American’s location, welfare, intentions, or problems to anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, without the expressed consent of that individual. Although sympathetic to the distress this can cause concerned families, consular officers must comply with the provisions of the Privacy Act.

Additional information can be found on the State Department’s website under Arrest or Detention of an American Citizen Abroad.

Should you decide to pursue a legal remedy, you should review the list of attorneys in Suriname (PDF 122 KB) or list of attorneys in French Guiana (PDF 109 KB) who have expressed an interest in representing Americans.  We cannot, however, recommend an individual attorney nor can we provide legal advice.