What would happen if an American assassinated a foreign leader?

Suppose Joe Blow in Anytown, USA decides he has heard enough anti American ranting from the head of state of country XYZ. Mr Blow goes travels to XYZ, pops a cap in the guy, and escapes back to America. When it is discovered that Joe is responsible, what happens next?

I am sure he is going to jail. He certainly violated the laws of XYZ, probably some international law too, but I’m not sure what United States law. Can he be extradited?

If Joe Blow had an accomplice he could be on the hook for violating 18 U.S.C. 956 (“Conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country”). This applies as long as Joe Blow did his conspiring within the jurisdiction of the United States, even if his co-conspirator(s) never set foot in the U.S.–say he’s e-mailing back and forth with them (or sending telegrams).

If he’s just a Lone Gunman who goes over and blows away the President of Ruritania, though, I’m not sure there’s any U.S. law he could be prosecuted under; I suppose it would come down to extradition treaties.



For a list of countries with extradition treaties with the US look here: list

And a wikiarticle on extradition: link

From what I’ve read at those links, and IANAL, if there’s a treaty and the prosecuting country provides the required evidence, then Joe is going to stand trial outside the US for his crimes. If there’s no treaty the Secretary of State makes the decision as to whether Joe goes.

If Joe was a Brit, he would not be extradited from the UK to anywhere he would face the death penalty should he be convicted, except if it is assured that the death penalty is off the table.

So if I took a round-trip flight to Karachi, found Osama bin Laden, popped a cap in his dome & flew home…I could be extradited back to Pakistan and tried for murder?

Well, shit. There goes my weekend.

No, go ahead. I’m sure some strings would be pulled on your behalf. But if you took out some legitimate member of Pakistani society, well, you’re own.


Here is the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents(New York, 14 December 1973) http://untreaty.un.org/English/TreatyEvent2003/Texts/treaty14E.pdf

Previous thread on this topic: Would the US extradite the assassin of a hostile leader?

And it would be, until Joe lands in the foreign country. At that point, Joe’s life is worth about as much as a tick on a warthog’s ass.

I was in Cambodia once, and saw a rather disturbing sign in English depicting an adult holding hands with a little kid, with the slogan like “Molest a child in this country, go to jail in yours.” A believe there was some small print indicating that the US helped pay for the sign, and were on board with the deal. But is that is a special case? I have certainly never molested a child in Cambodia, but I have fired up a big ole J in Amsterdam. What if I shot a man in Rio, just to watch him die? If the US didn’t want to deal with extradition, could they lock me up at home?

Depending on when you visited, it might have had some connection to Gary Glitter

It’s a special case: the PROTECT Act of 2003, among other things, makes it illegal for U.S. residents to travel abroad for the purposes of having sex with children (under 16), regardless of whether or not it’s a crime in the country visited. (See Section 105 of the link.)

Here are a couple of other threads on related topics:

Can you be prosecuted for a US crime committed in another country?

Risks of sex tourism in Thailand

And a staff report about extra-territorial jurisdiction:

In international waters, are you beyond the reach of the law?