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Crime committed in an embassy: Juristiction? Criminal Law

Discussion in 'Immigration Issues' started by CarinaCisneros, Aug 20, 2003.

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  1. CarinaCisneros

    CarinaCisneros Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I understand that "foreigners" are subject to the laws of the country they live or work in, and also that an Embassy (U.S., for the purposes of my question) is considered sovereign territory. My question is where in the U.S. is a case handled if a crime is committed inside a U.S. Embassy? For example (and this is completely hypothetical), if an American citizen and a Peruvian are involved in a fight in a public place in Peru, it is handled by the Peruvian courts, and the same is true even if they were both Americans. My question pertains to acts committed inside the Embassy -on the so-called "sovereign territory"- and in two instances, one involving two Americans, and another involving one American, and one person from the host country. Can anyone answer where the cases would be handled, should they go to court? Also, does it matter if one of the parties is/was employed by the Embassy at the time of the crime? If the answer depends on the crime, for the sake of argument, assume it if blackmail and extortion, and does not involve physical violence. Any advice appreciated.
     
  2. Michael M. Wechsler

    Michael M. Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    I might think issues that would not involve criminal court might be affected by whether a person has the status of a diplomat. Mere employment by an embassy may not change a person's status and it depends upon what level of staff, e.g. technical versus service staff. My understanding is that in most instances that the U.S. Department of State will handle such matters that involve claims of diplomatic immunity. Blackmail and extortion claims might be something that should be raised with them.
     
  3. NYClex

    NYClex New Member

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    interesting question. Usually things like this are handled locally, for example: while waiting for a visa a fight breaks out between two of the applicants waiting inside the US embassy in country G. One gets badly beaten up and wants to sue the other.

    In practice the embassy would hand the two guys over to the local authorities to prosecute and the local civil court would have jurisdiction over the battery suit.

    Lately it happened in Germany that some Palestinians stormed into the Israeli embassy in Berlin and tried to take it over, one of the attackers got shot by an Israeli guard. The embassy is considered sovereign Israeli soil, but the Palestinian attackers were arrested by German police and tried in a German court. The Israeli guard, though, enjoyed diplomatic immunity and so the suit against him by the family of the Palestinian shot was dismissed by the German court.

    Since the embassy is on exterritorial soil the embassy would not have to hand over those assailants to the local police, though. The embassy is not under any local jurisdiction, except if a treaty between the two countries says so.

    If the perpetrator himself is enjoying diplomatic immunity, things are different. Let's say the consul shoots his wife's lover, a vice consul, inside the embassy. Since the consul enjoys immunity the host country's courts have no jurisdiction, unless he and his country waive immunity voluntarily. The host country could only ask to have him removed from the country (declare him "persona non grata").
     

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