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276. Treaty Requests

Most treaty requests are made pursuant to a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT), which has the force of law. This procedure is generally faster and more reliable than letters rogatory. Consult with the Office of International Affairs (OIA) to determine whether the United States has an MLAT with the country from which the evidence is sought.

The MLAT will define the obligation to provide assistance, the scope of assistance, and the contents of the request. It may also contain evidentiary provisions that vary from the Federal Rules of Evidence. MLATs are not, however, the only treaties that provide for legal assistance: some extradition treaties and many tax treaties contain such provisions.

  1. Content: Because treaties are negotiated separately, each one differs from the next. Experience with one should not be considered universally applicable. OIA will provide models tailored to the treaty under which assistance is being requested. In general, a treaty request includes the same information that must be provided in a letter rogatory, except that the promise of reciprocity is omitted and certain additional information (e.g., name, address and citizenship of all persons affected by the request) may be required. See this Manual at 281 for general drafting guidelines.
  2. Procedure: Obtain a model from OIA. Prepare a draft based on OIA's model and send it to OIA for clearance. OIA will either prepare the request in final (where minimal changes are necessary) or return it to the Assistant United States Attorney to make the necessary changes, which will then be sent back to OIA. All treaties currently in force designate the Department of Justice as the "central authority" assigned to make the request; because of those provisions, the request is signed in the Department rather than by a judge. Make arrangements for translation (see next section)|B382 after the request has been signed or as otherwise directed by OIA. Generally, OIA will transmit the request only after receipt of the translation. OIA will send the request with translation directly to the foreign Central Authority, which oversees its execution.
Updated June 8, 2015