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Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

American citizens in Malaysia are subject to local law and judicial procedures, which differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available under U.S. law.  Our Consular Information Sheet and our Guide for U.S. Citizens arrested in Malaysia (PDF 394KB) provides some further information.

If you are arrested, you should ask the police to notify the American Embassy immediately at 03-2168-5000. Under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Malaysian government is obliged to notify the Embassy expeditiously of the arrest or detention of an American citizen.

We are committed to ensuring fair and humane treatment for American citizens imprisoned overseas, and stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority and in accordance with international law.  We monitor conditions in prisons and investigate and protest allegations of abuse against U.S. citizen prisoners when necessary.  We work with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards of human rights and to ensure that Americans are afforded equal treatment and due process under local laws.

We can assist Americans imprisoned in Malaysia by providing them a list of local lawyers in different specialties, but we cannot recommend specific attorneys or firms.  (see here for information on retaining a foreign attorney.)  We visit American citizens imprisoned in Malaysia periodically to ensure they are not abused and have adequate access to food, medical care and legal representation.  We can assist imprisoned Americans contact their families, and can facilitate transfer of funds necessary to pay attorney fees or fines.  The U.S. government cannot pay these costs, however.  We also monitor criminal legal proceedings, but cannot represent American citizens in court proceedings or demand their release from prison.

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, we cannot reveal information regarding an individual American’s location, welfare, intentions or problems to anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, without the 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.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The penalties for narcotics use and trafficking in Malaysia are very severe. Trafficking (which may include possession of a relatively small quantity of illegal drugs) carries a mandatory death sentence.