New U.S. Ambassador Ken Howery Presents His Credentials to King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

 

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After Leaked Diplomatic Letters Over A$AP Rocky’s Detention in Sweden, Where Should @StateSPEHA Go Next?

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Trump’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien who was in Sweden for A$AP Rocky’s assault trial apparently told USAToday reporter Kim Hjelmgaard that it is “entirely appropriate” for him to be in Sweden even though this was a criminal case. “When foreign govts. hold American citizens it’s always appropriate”.
The things we learn these days!
As of December 2018, the Bureau of Consular Affairs has conducted 10,399 visits to U.S. citizens in prison overseas. Note – prison visits not hostage visits. Only a few of those U.S. citizens make the news (see CA Fact Sheet).
The Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs also said publicly, while tagging his ultimate boss on Twitter, that the president “has made bringing our fellow citizens home a center piece of his foreign policy”.
Consular work just got so utterly fascinating. Now, which ones of the over 10,000 prison visits by consular officers to U.S. citizens incarcerated overseas will now be done by the special envoy? Which fellow citizens jailed overseas will be brought home next?

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U.S. Sends Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to A$AP Rocky’s Assault Trial in Sweden

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According to the State Department, when an American is arrested or detained abroad, the State Department—through its Embassies and Consulates—ensures that U.S. consular officers are there to assist. They help see that Americans are treated humanely and in accordance with local law, are given the opportunity for a lawyer, and can correspond with family back home.
Per its Foreign Affairs Manual, the Department expects consular officers to be “particularly active in, and to fully engage in” the protection of the welfare of the arrestee; ensure that the arrestee is being treated fairly and is afforded all due process under local law, provide needed consular services such as EMDA or administer a trust fund in a timely and efficient manner; track the process of the case through the host country’s legal system; and to keep the Department, family members, congressional representatives and others full informed on all aspects of the case, consistent with Privacy Act.

 

Consular assistance to Americans arrested or detained overseas includes the following:
State Department/U.S. Embassies Can:
  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen (with their written permission)
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Upon request, ensure that prison officials permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of the detainee’s choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust, if necessary, so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens
State Department, U.S. Embassies Cannot:
  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees
Reports note that POTUS sent the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to Sweden for the A$AP Rocky trial.  “The president asked me to come here and support these American citizens,” O’Brien told the New York Times. “I’ll be here until they come home.” (via). How often is he going to do this for other American citizens?
Nowhere in the Foreign Affairs Manual is there any mention of the role the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs play in cases of U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad or while they are on trial. In most of the normal world, it is understood that American citizens are subject to the local laws and regulations while visiting or living in the particular countries they are in. In this particular case, Time says that “Sweden does not have a bail system, which is why the rapper was detained with no way to get out even before he was formally charged.” Also see our old post below about the non-portability of American rights.

Non-Portability of American Rights

In any case, we don’t understand why the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs is involved with this case.  Does the U.S. Government considers A$AP Rocky on trial for assault in Sweden, a hostage? Are we to understand that Americans incarcerated and detained overseas are now considered hostages to bring back as soon as possible? And if that’s not the case, and if this is an exception, what are the grounds for the Trump Administration to make this type of exception?
Is the Special Envoy’s role now includes affecting the release of all American citizens from foreign incarceration/detention?
How does a regular American citizen’s family petition for the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs to be involved in their cases overseas?
Any guidance sent to consular officers doing ACS work? When is the State Department updating the Foreign Affairs Manual?
Also the next time U.S. diplomats overseas talk to their local counterparts about judicial independence and the rule of law, should they expect a push back with this case as Exhibit A?

 

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Protests Spread, Embassy Warnings and Temporary Suspension of Public Services

The Atlantic Wire’s John Hudson mapped on Google the protests breaking out across the globe due to a 14-minute YouTube clip of an anti-Muslim movie.   The protests are directed primarily against U.S. embassies, but also against institutions and businesses like the American International School in Tunis (burned and looted, also photos here of the US Embassy Tunis from an Arabic website), and the Kentucky Fried Chicken and Hardee’s in Lebanon (burned and ransacked).

The British and German Embassies in Khartoum, Sudan were attacked, and there were reported protests as far away as Kashmir and Kut and also against the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, the United States protecting power in Iran.

Over the weekend, there were also protests in Adana and Istanbul in Turkey,  in Chisinau, Moldova and in Sydney, Australia.  It looks like the protesters range in number from as small as 30 individuals to as much as 2,000.

Map of Muslim Protests via The Atlantic Wire
(click on map to view the large interactive map)

Several posts overseas have announced temporary closure and suspension of services.

The US Embassy in Yemen sent an Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens in Sana’a informing them of continuing demonstrations in the vicinity of the embassy, and consular services closure through Saturday, September 29.

US Mission Pakistan issued an Emergency Message for U.S Citizens in the country announcing the temporary suspension of consular services in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi on September 17  due to the potential for demonstrations in the vicinity of the Embassy. A second message informs U.S. citizens living in Pakistan that the U.S. government has instituted travel restrictions for its employees throughout the country. U.S. government employees can now undertake essential travel only, including within the cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar, due to possible demonstrations moving along major routes.

US Embassy Tunisia announced that the embassy, including the Consular Section and American Citizen Services (ACS), will be closed to public access on September 17, 2012.

US Mission India announced that due to planned demonstrations in New Delhi and Kolkata on September 18, 2012, the American Center including the library and USIEF in the two cities will be closed.

Other posts have issued warning messages of possible protests:

In Azerbaijan, the U.S. Embassy Baku informs U.S. citizens of a planned demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy at 3:00 pm on Monday, September 17.  The demonstration is assumed to be connected to other anti-American demonstrations ongoing worldwide.

US Embassy Lebanon issued an Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens on “the reaction to the controversial film and internet event and says that “The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon is concerned about the continued threat of demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. interests in Lebanon.” The AP’s Matt Lee reports that “A State Department status report obtained Monday by The Associated Press said the Beirut embassy had “reviewed its emergency procedures and is beginning to destroy classified holdings.”

Here is part of the Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens from the US Embassy Jakarta on 9/17/2012:

“The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia has been informed of planned demonstrations in Jakarta and Medan. Today, Monday, September 17 there will be a demonstration in Jakarta starting at 12:00pm. Approximately 1,000 people are expected to march from the Hotel Indonesia Circle outside of Grand Indonesia to the U.S. Embassy. A demonstration also started in Medan today at around 9:00am. Another protest is planned in Medan for tomorrow, Tuesday September 18. The U.S. Embassy has been informed by the Indonesian National Police that approximately 150 police will be present in Medan and approximately 1,500 police will be present in Jakarta during the demonstrations. We advise, as always, that people should avoid large crowds and other gatherings that might turn violent.”

US Embassy Conakry informs U.S. Citizens of anti-American demonstration at the U.S. Embassy on Monday, September 17. Embassy staff have been told to remain at home Monday morning. U.S. citizens are urged not to attempt to come to the Embassy. The American International School was also closed on Monday.

In Afghanistan, the US Embassy in Kabul restricted travel for Chief of Mission personnel across Afghanistan until further notice.

US Embassy Sweden: Ambassador Brzezinski Visits Facebook Server Site

Via US Embassy Sweden/Flickr: On February 2, 2012 Ambassador Mark Brzezinski concluded his tour of Norrbotten by having lunch at Governor Per-Ola Eriksson’s residence in Luleå, visiting the site of the Facebook servers, a visit to Aurorum Science Park together with the Mayor of Luleå Karl Petersen and visiting Swerea MEFOS, a metallurgical research institute.  Photo #22 shows the brick with his name on it at the server site construction.

Photo from US Embassy Sweden/Flickr
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