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Arrest in Albania

Information for U.S. Citizens Arrested/Incarcerated in Albania

While in Albania, a U.S. citizen is subject to this country's laws and regulations.  If you violate the law in Albania, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, fined, arrested, or imprisoned.  If arrested in Albania, a U.S. citizen must go through the Albanian legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted, and possibly convicted and sentenced.

In Albania, the judicial process can be lengthy.  Living conditions in prisons are improving, but are still quite difficult.  Prisoners live in close quarters and have limited access to telephones.  Typically, family members will purchase toiletries, comfortable bedding and personal articles for the prisoner.

How can one notify the U.S. Embassy if arrested or incarcerated in Albania?

Please notify the American Citizen Services Unit (+355-(0)4-224-7285) when you or a friend or family member is arrested or detained.  Detained Americans will generally be visited by a U.S. consul within 48 hours.   Although it is not absolutely required, it is helpful.

[Consular Access to Prisoners: Article 36(a) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, 21 UST 77, TIAS 6820, 596 UNST 261, a multilateral treaty to which Albania and United States are party provides that consular officers shall be free to communicate with their nationals and to have access to them.  However, Article 36(b) provides that the foreign authorities shall inform the consular officer or the arrest of a national "without delay" (no time frame specified), if the national requests such notification.]

What services can the U.S. Embassy provide to American Citizens arrested or incarcerated in Albania?

We can and do monitor conditions of prisons and can protest allegations of abuse against U.S. citizen prisoners when requested to do so.  We work with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards of human rights and to ensure that Americans are afforded due process under Albanian laws.

Consular services include:

Upon initial notification of arrest:

  • Visiting the prisoner as soon as possible after notification of the arrest;
  • Providing a list of local attorneys to help the prisoner obtain legal representation;
  • Providing information about judicial procedures in the foreign country;
  • Notifying family and/or friends, if authorized by the prisoner via a Privacy Act consent, Form DS-5505 (PDF 184.97 KB);
  • Relaying requests to family and friends for money or other aid.

On-going support to incarcerated Americans:

  • Providing regular consular visits to the prisoner and reporting on those visits to the Department of State;
  • Providing loans for urgent dietary or medical needs to qualified destitute prisoners through the Emergency Medical/Dietary Assistance (EMDA) program;
  • Arranging dietary supplements (vitamins/minerals) to qualified prisoners;
  • Arranging for medical and dental care if not provided by prison, to be paid for from prisoner’s funds, funds provided by family or funds loaned to the prisoner by the U.S. Government under the EMDA program for destitute Americans incarcerated abroad under the conditions specified at 22 CFR 71.10.;
  • Arranging for examinations by an independent physician if needed;
  • Arranging special family visits, subject to local law;
  • Protesting mistreatment or abuse to the appropriate authorities;
  • Attending the trial, if the embassy/consulate believes that discrimination on the basis of U.S. nationality might occur or if specifically requested by the prisoner or family, if possible.
  • Providing information about procedures and applications for pardons or prisoner transfer treaties, if applicable.

Discretionary support provided as needed:

  • Providing reading materials, subject to local laws and regulations;
  • Providing personal amenities such as stamps, toiletries, stationary, if permitted by prison authorities, from prisoner’s or family’s private funds;
  • Assisting in finding ways to expedite prisoners' mail;
  • Inquiring about the possibility of prison employment;
  • Assisting in arranging correspondence courses;
  • Arranging for American community volunteer visits to prisoners.

What services can the U.S. Embassy not provide?

A consular officer cannot:

  • Demand the immediate release of a U.S. citizen arrested abroad or otherwise cause the citizen to be released;
  • Represent a U.S. citizen at trial, give legal advice or pay legal fees and/or fines with U.S. Government funds.

Who can the Embassy contact on a prisoner’s behalf?

At the prisoner’s request, we will contact any family or friends he/she wishes to notify.  However, under the Privacy Act we cannot release any information regarding a case without specific authorization by the prisoner.

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.

Does a prisoner have the right of an attorney?

An attorney plays a vital role in the Albanian judicial process.  According to Albanian law, a detainee is entitled to have an attorney present during any questioning, as well as at any of the hearings or trials.  If the detainee cannot afford to have an attorney, the government will provide a public defender upon request.

The defendant’s attorney should facilitate bringing the case promptly to trial, pressing for a favorable sentence, paying any applicable fine and ultimately securing the final permission for release.  The attorney’s intervention is often essential in delivering the defendant’s documents from one office to another, completing necessary local bureaucratic steps, and pressing for scheduling of court appearances.  Prior to entering into an attorney-client relationship, the defendant should confirm the role of his attorney with respect to his case.

Accordingly, a defendant should exercise great care in the selection of one’s attorney.  For a list of attorney who practice law in Albania, please visit our webpage “List of Attorneys.”  Please note that this list does not constitute an endorsement from the Embassy for any individual lawyer.

What if a prisoner needs funds for legal fees or fines?

If someone needs to send you funds for any legal fees, fines, or other expenses the State Department encourages you to use commercial services, such as Western Union, which are generally faster than the State Department transfer system.  Western Union services are described at their website, or by phone 1-800-325-6000.

Family or friends may send funds to you through the U.S. embassy or consulate using the Department of State Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) Trust process. For additional information, contact the U.S. Department of State, Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management at (202) 647-5225. More information can be found at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs webpage “Sending Money to U.S. Citizens Overseas.”

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