Title banner by Stanley Berneche, Why Not Studios

This collection of documents prepared by Human Rights Research is posted for the benefit of attorneys, researchers and consular officers.

The collection includes:

1) Consular Notification and Assistance: A Guide for Defense Attorneys.   This 40-page litigation guide includes a background to consular rights issues in U.S. criminal cases, tips for developing legal issues and working with consulates, a litigation history, a bibliography of articles from the media and law reviews, case citations, excerpts from the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, resource listings and a file library. Updated: August, 2018 (15th edition).

2)   Understanding Sanchez-Llamas    Briefly summarizes the core holdings of the most recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on remedies for Vienna Convention violations in criminal cases, with an analysis of its potential applications and limitations. Updated November, 2008.

3) Individual Consular Rights: Foreign Law and Practice    Citing official sources, this file demonstrates that more than 60 parties to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) recognize that the treaty confers legal rights on foreign detainees.  Many countries require advisement of consular rights simultaneously with other legal safeguards such as the right to an attorney, and courts in other common law nations have granted judicial remedies for violations of consular advisement obligations. November, 2006 (6 pages); updated regularly.

4) Consular Notification and Assistance: A Resource Guide for Consuls     Outlines the significance of consular notification and access to detainees, the rights conferred on individual nationals and consuls under the Vienna Convention, forms of consular assistance in death penalty cases, sources for additional information, recent developments and consular intervention in clemency campaigns. December, 2001 (12 pages).

5) Consular Notification: Statutory and Regulatory Provisions    A compilation of federal, state and local regulations, statutes and guidelines requiring notification of consular rights by law enforcement agencies.  September, 2006; updated periodically.

6) Consular Rights of Foreign Nationals: International Norms      Excerpts from international instruments enshrining the right of foreign detainees to consular communication and access. Includes United Nations instruments, regional standards and international court rulings. Also discusses international and constitutional provisions recognizing a right to consular or diplomatic protection while abroad. October, 2004; updated regularly.

7) Consular Notification and Access: Proposed Model Standards    
A 7-page discussion paper outlining standardized procedures for notifying detained foreigners of their consular rights. Proposed in the context of Canadian law enforcement procedures, but adaptable to other jurisdictions as well.

8) Violations of the Vienna Convention: Editorials and Statements    
A collection of editorials and official statements on the impact of VCCR violations in U.S. death penalty cases. Last updated: July 27, 2018.

9) Instant Avena    A capsule summary of the main holdings of the International Court of Justice in the Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. USA).  May, 2004 (9 pages).

10) Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide     Preliminary data on foreign nationals on death row in 32 countries, including reported executions.  October, 2004; updated periodically.

11) Returning Prisoners to Face the U.S. Death Penalty: Limitations Under International Law    Describes the legal basis for requiring a mandatory assurance against the death penalty before returning any individual from an abolitionist country to face the death penalty in the United States.  Updated April, 2019.

12) The Death Penalty Worldwide: Estimated Death Row Populations    In many parts of the world, the death penalty is shrouded in secrecy; accurate statistics on its use are incomplete or non-existent.  Drawing on many sources, this file provides a very tentative answer to a basic but difficult question: how many people are under sentence of death worldwide?  April, 2006; updated periodically.

Additional Resources

For comprehensive data on the use of the death penalty by country (including its application to foreign nationals and other legal concerns), please visit the Death Penalty Worldwide site

For updated data on death-sentenced foreign nationals in the USA, please visit the Death Penalty Information Center


The following detailed guides are available in Adobe Acrobat format:

Equal Protection : Consular Assistance & Criminal Justice Procedures in the USA

(International Justice Project & Human Rights Research, 3rd edition (2008), 55 pages). The purpose of this introductory guide is to better acquaint consular officials with the U.S. criminal justice process and the importance of consular notification and assistance for foreign national detained in the USA.

Also available in Spanish, as Proteccion sin Distincion : La Ayuda Consular y los Procesos de Justicia Penal en los Estados Unidos de America 


A Universal Safeguard: Providing Consular Assistance to Nationals in Custody

(International Justice Project and Human Rights Research, June 2003, 36 pages). An introductory manual that is universal in scope and applicable to consular assistance procedures in any country.  A source for ideas and advice, both for training consular personnel and in the development of consular policies and procedures.

Bridging the Gap: Effective Representation of Foreign Nationals in US Criminal Cases

(International Justice Project and Human Rights Research, 3rd edition (2007), 74 pages). Designed for use by attorneys representing foreign nationals facing the death penalty or other extremely serious charges in the United States. Addresses many of the challenges, obstacles and opportunities that may arise in these cases. 


For an overview of conducting mitigation investigations in capital cases of foreign nationals (including the importance of consular assistance), see:

Mitigation Abroad: Preparing A Successful Case For Life For The Foreign National Client

The Mexican Foreign Ministry has issued an instruction manual on consular notification and access requirements for Mexican law enforcement agencies: 

"Manual sobre Acceso y Notificación Consulares," Primera edición, 2013, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (in Spanish)


In 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions issued groundbreaking recommendations on the human rights obligation to provide consular assistance in death penalty cases


Your comments and suggestions about this collection are always welcome. Other material and assistance on this subject is also available.

For more information, please contact:

Mark Warren, Human Rights Research
Ottawa, Canada
(613) 256-8308

To learn more about the services available from Human Rights Research, please click here

Last updated: January, 2020