365.1121 Slavich, Nickola/32

The Ambassador in Italy (Garrett) to the Secretary of State

No. 1492

Sir: With reference to the Department’s instruction No. 623 of April 28, 1932, regarding the arrest of American citizens in Italy, I have the honor to inform the Department that inquiries on this matter were addressed in due course to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and to transmit herewith, for the information of the Department, a copy and translation of a Memorandum which has [Page 462] been received from the Ministry in reply to the above-mentioned inquiries.

I have the honor to add that further inquiries were addressed to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs based on the Department’s instruction No. 631 of May 5, 1932, to which no reply has yet been received, although it may be noted that several of the points raised in the Department’s instruction of May 5th are referred to in the enclosed Memorandum from the Foreign Office.

Respectfully yours,

John W. Garrett

The Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the American Embassy


1) As has been pointed out in the Memorandum of the Embassy of the United States of America, there is no treaty obligation to notify the consular officers of either country of the arrest of their countrymen.

In the specific case of the United States of America, Article 9 of the Consular Convention of May 8, 1878, in effect between Italy and the United States of America is confined to recognition of the right of the respective consular officers to “protect the rights and interests of their countrymen.”

2) Neither is provision made for the possibility of a foreign citizen’s notifying his own consular authorities of his arrest, but, should there be no reason to the contrary, notification may be given in accordance with the prison regulations (Articles 103 to 105, Royal Decree No. 787 of June 18, 1931—Supplement to Official Gazette No. 147 of June 27, 1931).

3) Notification by the Royal Authorities of the arrest of foreign citizens is generally given in the Kingdom if the arrested person declines to take advantage of this privilege. As to the time when such notification may be given, it is to be observed that in the supreme interests of justice it might in certain cases be advisable or necessary to conceal the fact that an arrest has been made in order to proceed to the arrest of possible accomplices or for other unforeseen reasons; it is for this reason that any contact between the arrested person and outsiders may be postponed for a certain length of time.

However, the right of consular officers is invariably safeguarded since when preliminary investigations are under way and in every case prior to the trying of the case, except in cases of “citazione direttissima” (confessed crime, etc.) (i.e. in cases so evident that they are tried immediately without preliminary investigations) in which [Page 463] there is an official advocate, the arrested person may confer with his attorney and consul in accordance with the prison regulations (Articles 96 to 102, above cited regulations).

4) The presence of public officials during interviews with persons under arrest is an invariable rule which cannot be waived, both because so stipulated by Italian law and required to ensure the safety of persons permitted to interview the prisoner and because it is necessary to prevent any outbreak among arrested persons which would disturb order in the prison.

5) In Italy during the period of preliminary investigations the prisoner may communicate with outsiders with the permission of the authorities at whose disposition he is held, which permission must be requested each time.

The Royal Government’s position as to the right of its own diplomatic or consular officers to visit their countrymen arrested in foreign countries is that the local laws and treaties or conventions existing between the two states must be respected.

6) It may be well to add that intervention by diplomatic or consular officers in cases of the arrest of their countrymen should be limited to verification of satisfactory conditions of health and treatment accorded to prisoners and inquiry as to the prisoner’s possible needs, avoiding, for obvious reasons, any attempt during the preliminary investigations to enter into the merits of the case or the application of local law; this instead may be done once the period of investigation has been completed.