Committing crime in international waters

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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 05:41 PM   #1
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Default Committing crime in international waters

If you were to commit any crime of any degree in international waters and come back to a law governed country and someone knows what you did and tells can you be punished by law?

Thank you for your advice.

Peter P.
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 07:58 PM   #2
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Default Re: Committing crime in international waters

The responsibility for the act lies with the country of registration of the vessel. Therefore, if you committed a crime on a British registered vessel, then the British Government would have the option of prosecuting you.
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 08:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: Committing crime in international waters

Q:
If a crime (e.g. a murder) is committed in international waters and later discovered, in which country is the defendant tried?

A:
It depends on several principles, which sometimes overlap and cause confusion (with the result for example that fist fights on cruise ships are a nightmare for the authorities).

The first principle is that the country in which the relevant ship/aircraft is registered has jurisdiction. If that country can't or won't take action though, then international law recognises the right of the country of a person involved (the victim generally) to take jusrisdiction. However, there are some crimes where any country can accept jurisdiction to prosecute: piracy, slave trading or narcotics smuggling for example are subject to specific international laws.

You may also find, especially if you're a passenger on a ship, that your ticket requires you to accept that the laws of a particular country will apply in the event of any crime or incident during the voyage and an agrement like that (in the small print on the back of the booking) is generally binding.

You can get some background on the international law of the sea here:

UNCLOS and Agreement on Part XI - Preamble and frame index
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