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Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Arrests In Lebanon

Lebanon is an independent, sovereign country. One of the chief attributes of sovereignty is the right of a country to make and enforce laws within its own borders. Just as in the U.S., the government has the internationally recognized right to try foreigners as well as its own nationals within its territory.

Anyone who breaks the law in Lebanon is subject to prosecution under the Lebanese legal system. If a person is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by a Lebanese court, this sentence will be served in a Lebanese prison.

While in Lebanon one is subject to the same laws as is a Lebanese citizen. A U.S. passport does not entitle its bearer to any special privileges. One should not expect to receive preferential treatment or expect that the same legal rights accorded one under the U.S. judicial system are necessarily applicable in Lebanon.

The Consul’s Role

The United States Government cannot get you out of jail. The Embassy or Consulate cannot accept custody of you or guarantee your appearance in court. Nor can they post bail for you, act as your legal advisor or pay legal fees for you.

After being arrested, the police are supposed to ask you if you would like the Embassy to be notified of your arrest. You can ask that the Embassy not be notified, and then at a later date you may change your mind and request that the police notify the Embassy.

Arrested persons are not allowed to make telephone calls. If you ask that the Embassy or Consulate be notified, the police will call us on your behalf. You cannot speak to us by phone, nor can you call friends or relatives.

What the Consul Can Do

  • Visit you in jail after being notified of your arrest to check on your health and the treatment accorded you by the police
  • Provide a list of local English-speaking attorneys (you are responsible for paying any lawyers’ fees). Lebanese law does not provide for a free, court-appointed attorney at the early stages of an arrest. The court-appointed lawyer will only be assigned after indictment when the case will go to court
  • Alert the police of any medical conditions you have (for example, diabetes, heart problems, etc.), and request that you been seen by a doctor
  • Work with local authorities to ensure that your rights under Lebanese law are fully respected, to include protesting any mistreatment or abuse
  • Supply you with English-language reading material and/or personal toiletries subject to prison regulations
  • Notify your family and friends of your arrest and/or relay requests for financial assistance, provided you authorize the consul to do so

The U.S. Privacy Act

The Privacy Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-579) was enacted to protect U.S. citizens against unauthorized release of information about them by the government. If you wish to have your family and/or friends notified of arrest you must first provide written permission to do so.

The Embassy will not inform any person of your arrest without your permission. Even if your family or friends find out by other means, we will be unable to discuss your case with them without your written permission. Although we routinely report to the Department of State in Washington on the condition of American prisoners in our consular district, the Department of State does not release this information to individuals without your permission.

You may provide permission to contact people via a Privacy Act Waiver.

These files are maintained primarily for the purpose of providing protection and assistance to American citizens abroad and not for law enforcement purposes. While there is no automatic or mandatory dissemination of information in consular files to other agencies, we can release specific information to other agencies that have a legitimate interest in such data. Therefore, for legitimate law enforcement purposes in the U.S., the appropriate law enforcement agency in the U.S. may be notified.

Nonetheless, American citizens arrested overseas are not liable for prosecution for the same crime upon their return to the U.S. unless they are also wanted for an offense committed in the U.S. Arrest records maintained by the Lebanese government, however, are not bound by the restrictions of the Privacy Act.

We have no control over what information the Lebanese police pass to their U.S. counterparts,foreign governments or to INTERPOL. It is possible that U.S. police agencies may have acquired more information about a prisoner from these sources than the Embassy or the Department of State in Washington has at its disposal.