1988

US

Yunnis v US 681 F SUPP 896 US district court

Fawas Yunnis, a Lebanese citizen was persuaded by a US agent in Cyprus into a fishing boat which motored in international waters. He was then arrested and transported to the US where he was charged with hosting taking and piracy in connection with the hijacking in 1985 of an aircraft belonging to Royal Jordanian Airlines. No part of the offences occurred in the US, although two of the passengers were US citizen. [Previously in US v Yunnis Parker: The universal principle recognises that certain offences are so heinous and so widely condemned that ‘any state if it captures the offender may prosecute and punish that person on behalf of the world community regardless of the nationality of the offender or victim or where the crime was commited’ (Bassiouini, international criminal law, 1986) Thus the Universal and Passive Personality principles, together, provide ample grounds for this court to assert jurisdiction over Yunnis] [Court of appeals Yunnis v. Yunnis Universal principle and Passive Personal Principle supported assertion of US jurisdiction to prosecute Yunnis on hijacking and hostage taking charge. Under the Passive personal principles a state can punish a non- national from crimes committed against its national outside of its territory. US v Benitez (1984) (passive personal principle invoked to approve prosecution of Colombia citizen by shooting US DEA agent in Colombia)]

[Yunnis argued that hostage taking has not been recognised as a universal crime whatever merit appellants’ claims as a matter of international law they cannot prevail before this court…our duty is to enforce the Constitution, and treaties of the US, not to conform the law of the land to norms of CIL. The statute in question authorises prosecution of those who take Americans hostages abroad, no matter where the offence occurs or where the offender is found, provided that the hijacker is later found in the US] This passive personality principle authorises states to assert jurisdiction over offences committed against their citizens abroad. It recognises that each state has a legitimate interest in protecting the safety of its citizens when they journey outside national boundaries. Although many international legal scholars agree that this principle is the most controversial of the five sources of jurisdiction. The international community explicitly approved of the principle as a basis for asserting jurisdiction over hostage takers .The Hostage Taking Convention gave each signatory country discretion to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction when the offence was committed ‘with respect of a hostage who is a national of that state if that state considers it appropriate’ therefore there can be no doubt concerning the application of this principle to the offence of hostage taking This theory has been increasingly when applied to terrorist and other organised attacks on state national by reason of their nationality, or to assassinations of states’ ambassadors of government officials, perpetrators of crimes unanimously condemned by members of the international community, should be aware of the illegality of their actions. Therefore, qualified application of the doctrine to serious and universally condemned crimes will not rise the spectre of unlimited and unexpected criminal liability