A detained foreign national has a right to be informed without delay that they may receive consular assistance if they so choose. ‘Without delay’ means at the time the accused is deprived of their liberty, or at least before making his or her first statement to authorities. In practice, this means that the obligation will usually fall to police, however on reception at a prison or pre-trial facility, detaining authorities must ensure detainees are able to exercise this right if they have not already done so.
Where the country from which the detainee originates has no diplomatic or consular representation, the detainee must be allowed to communicate with alternate diplomatic officials that represent them. In cases where detainees are stateless or refugees, detaining authorities should facilitate contact with the diplomatic representative of the state that takes charge of their interest or the relevant national or international authority, for example, UNHCR.
Where a detainee holds dual or multiple nationalities but not including that for the state in which he or she is detained, authorities are obliged to promptly contact all relevant consulates as requested by the detainee. Where a detainee has dual or multiple nationalities including that of the state he or she is arrested in, it will depend on the practice of the state concerned as to whether the detainee is offered the right to contact the consulate(s) concerned.
If a detainee does not want Consular officials to be notified, that must generally be respected by the detaining authorities unless a bilateral treaty between the sending and receiving state is in force that requires consulates to be automatically notified by detaining authorities on detention of one of their nationals. There may be a number of reasons that detainees do not wish to speak with consular officials: for example, they do not want their families or their home government to know of their imprisonment, they may not have faith in the consular services, or they may not wish to draw attention to their situation within the prison environment.