South African citizens: if you are arrested or jailed overseas...
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The purpose of this information is to provide you with guidance on what you should do if you are arrested whilst outside South Africa.
Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1962), which is the generally accepted standard for all countries, persons who have been arrested outside their own country must have access to their consular representative.
If you should find yourself in this situation, you must immediately request the authorities to allow you to contact the South African mission in that country.
Consular staff are there to assist you.
They are not judgmental. It is the task of the local courts to decide on your innocence or guilt. Even if you are found guilty, consular officials will continue to assist you and you should not feel embarrassed in your dealings with the mission.
If you are arrested, the consular officials can:
MAKE CONTACT with you as soon as possible after notification of your arrest.
WHAT YOUR CONSULAR OFFICERS CANNOT DO FOR YOU:
advice on your behalf. Dealings with your lawyer are a private matter.
PAY for a
lawyer's services, instigate court proceedings on your behalf or interfere
in local judicial procedures to get you out of prison or get an early
treatment for you than is provided for locals or other nationals.
CONDUCT investigations related to an offence.
If you are a dual national in the country of your other nationality the assistance which South African consular representatives can give you may be limited. (That is, even if you are a South African citizen but you also possess the nationality of the country in which you have been detained or arrested).
It is possible, however, that the local authorities will allow the consular representative to assist you. You should ask for access to your consular representative in such circumstances and press the prison, court or police authorities for such access to the greatest extent.
What you can do for yourself:
There are a number of things that prisoners in foreign jails can do to help themselves. Prisons sometimes provide opportunities for foreign prisoners to learn the local language and this should improve the quality of your life in prison by enabling you to communicate with fellow prisoners and with the prison guards.
However, in some countries there are very few, if any, opportunities for prisoners to access education material, work or even use the telephone. Prison conditions and approach to management of prisoners vary with the country and culture and different conditions and rules apply for different prisons.
Many prisons provide facilities for prisoners to make telephone calls. You should find out about the rules, especially those which enable you to contact your family and friends.
Information for relatives of South African prisoners abroad
You may find the situation of your relative or friend who is imprisoned abroad distressing. It may also bring hardship for you, especially if you have been relying on that person for support and/or they now rely on you for financial assistance while in prison abroad.
A brief overview is outlined below to provide family and friends of a detainee with a clearer understanding as to the functions and responsibilities of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and missions abroad on assistance that can or can not be rendered.
The role the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) plays from the time a South African is arrested abroad to the time they are sentenced, and while they are in prison serving their sentences.
disciplinary measures have been taken against a detainee by the prison
authorities, consular officials do not interfere in this process, unless
the detainee's human rights have been violated. Under such circumstances,
local laws and customs are taken into account;
Assistance that can be rendered by next-of-kin / friends to a detainee abroad
Approval has been obtained from the South African Reserve Bank, giving authority to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to transfer funds from South Africa to an individual detainee serving sentence abroad.
An amount not exceeding R 2 000.00 per month or R 24 000.00 annually has been approved. However, representation can be directed to the Reserve Bank to increase the amount currently approved.
In order to effect payment, the next of kin of the detainee may either approach the Department of International Relations and Cooperation finance section directly, or alternatively, they may deposit the amount they intend to make available.
Details are as follows:
Department of International Relations and Cooperation
It is important that a copy of the bank deposit slip, depicting details of the detainee (name), country of detention and contact telephone number of the depositor, be faxed to the relevant consular desk official at (012) 351-1916.
On receipt of the funds, the finance section of the Department of Foreign Affairs will instruct the Mission to pay out the relevant amount to the detainee. The exchange rate will be based on the applicable exchange rate of the day of transfer.
Funds for the purchase of an air-ticket to South Africa upon release of a detainee
Department of Home Affairs (amount not exceeding R 15 000) who in turn will instruct the relevant Mission abroad to pay out to the money to the released detainee or effect payment for the ticket on behalf of the (released) detainee.
Forwarding of letters and prescribed medication
The next-of-kin may forward prescribed medication to the detainee via the Department of Foreign Affairs' diplomatic freight bag. The parcel containing the medication should be forwarded or handed in personally to the responsible consular desk official. Please note that the doctor's prescription must accompany the medication. Furthermore, costs pertaining to the forwarding of the medication via the diplomatic freight bag will be for the account of the next-of-kin. Payment can be effected directly at the finance section of the Department of Foreign Affairs or via bank deposit (please include deposit slip when forwarding the parcel to the responsible consular desk official).
of magazines, books, study material
of articles such as clothing, food, toiletries etc.
Where the forwarding of clothing is required, a request can be forwarded to the responsible consular desk official at the Department of Foreign Affairs. Please note that each case pertaining to the latter request will be evaluated on merit. In the event that permission is granted, the next-of-kin or family friend will be responsible for the diplomatic freight bag costs. Once approval has been obtained, the parcel containing the clothing should be forwarded to the relevant consular desk official. Payment can be effected as stated above.