Vega9000
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Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:18 pm

I had this discussion recently with a group of friends, and we couldn't reach a consensus, so I would like to know your opinion.

Take the following scenario:

A QF airplane departs from London to Sidney. As they overflow Germany, a Russian passenger enters in a heated argument with an American passenger, and stabs him. Since they are close to the German border, the pilot makes an emergency landing in Austria, where the American passenger eventually dies, and the Russian is arrested by the Austrian Police.

The question is: where does the Russian passenger goes to trial?

-In Australia, since the airplane was from Qantas?
-In the UK, since it was the point of departure?
-In Germany, since it was in their airspace that the stabbing took place?
-In Austria, since the American died there, and they made the arrest?
-In the USA, since the victim was American
-Or in Russia, since the aggressor was Russian?

This falls in that murky category of "international law", so for those in the know, your comments would be appeciated.

Also, I'm not an expert on routes, so I don't know if these were the exact countries overflown, but you get my point...
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caspritz78
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:24 pm

I would say in Austria, because that's where the plane landed and the Austrian police would be in charge of the criminal investigation. Besides that I think the United States could ask for extradition because an American citizen was murdered. At least I can say for sure neither the UK or Germany would be the place for trial.
 
Vega9000
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:34 pm



Quoting Caspritz78 (Reply 1):
I would say in Austria, because that's where the plane landed and the Austrian police would be in charge of the criminal investigation

yes they would, but the actual crime (the stabbing) did not occur in Austria
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OHLHD
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:41 pm

The actual stabbing occured in Australia, isn't it since there is a Australian registration on the plane...... I might be wrong here.
 
swiftski
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:43 pm

If A "crime" Happens Onboard A Flight? (by Bofredrik Aug 27 2007 in Civil Aviation)

Quoting OHLHD (Reply 3):
The actual stabbing occured in Australia, isn't it since there is a Australian registration on the plane...... I might be wrong here.

 Smile
 
dl767captain
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:41 am

Well i'm guessing Austiria until Either Russia or the US tried the whole extradition thing to bring the guy to their country for punishment, it would be more of a fight between who got to punish him, the US or Russia
 
SB
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:51 am

ICAO says "the law of the state being overflown shall apply, unless the aircraft is in international airspace where the law of the country of registration shall apply." There's also a note stating that if the country of registration has a law which is not applied in the country being overflown it may still be enforced: Alcohol on Saudi Arabian flight for example.

Now in your case I must admit I'm at a bit of a loss. I would guess the trial would occur in Germany as the incident occurred in german airspace. I'd be quite interested to find out.

S.
"Confirm leave the hold and maintain 320kts?!"
 
bok269
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:29 am

Also keep in mind the person technically isn't dead until he/she is declared as such, which would occur in Austria.
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copter808
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Tue Dec 18, 2007 7:03 am



Quoting Bok269 (Reply 7):
Also keep in mind the person technically isn't dead until he/she is declared as such, which would occur in Austria.

Very true, but the OFFENSE which precipitated the death occurred in Germany.

Another more common example: A person is shot in a suburb of Chicago and taken to a Trauma Center in Chicago, where he dies. The crime (Murder) occurred in the suburb and would be prosecuted there, not in Chicago.
 
Vega9000
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:12 pm



Quoting OHLHD (Reply 3):
The actual stabbing occured in Australia, isn't it since there is a Australian registration on the plane...... I might be wrong here.

Humm. I don´t think that an airplane has the same status as an embassy.

Quoting SB (Reply 6):
ICAO says "the law of the state being overflown shall apply, unless the aircraft is in international airspace where the law of the country of registration shall apply."

That's probably it, but it seems strange that Germany would trial a foreigner accused of murdering another foreigner, inside a foreign plane.

Quoting DL767captain (Reply 5):
Well i'm guessing Austiria until Either Russia or the US tried the whole extradition thing to bring the guy to their country for punishment, it would be more of a fight between who got to punish him, the US or Russia

Well, that was one of the points raised. If the trial should occur in the victim's country, and since members of the EU, to the best of my knowledge, do not extradite people to places where they could receive the death sentence, could the Russian get away with it?
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OHLHD
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:09 pm



Quoting Vega9000 (Reply 9):
Humm. I don´t think that an airplane has the same status as an embassy.



Quoting SB (Reply 6):
ICAO says "the law of the state being overflown shall apply, unless the aircraft is in international airspace where the law of the country of registration shall apply." There's also a note stating that if the country of registration has a law which is not applied in the country being overflown it may still be enforced: Alcohol on Saudi Arabian flight for example.

Now in your case I must admit I'm at a bit of a loss. I would guess the trial would occur in Germany as the incident occurred in german airspace. I'd be quite interested to find out.

S.

I think this applies when interantional airspace is overflown.

AFAIK the Austrian police they would be happy if germany takes this part.  duck   Big grin
 
Viscount724
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Tue Dec 18, 2007 5:43 pm

There have been several incidents where international flights oveflying Canada have had to land in Canada due to unruly passenger incidents. The passengers have always been arrested and charged under Canadian law and a few have spent time in Canadian prisons. I expect the same thing applies everywhere, unless the offence is so serious that extradition may be requested and granted.
 
rfields5421
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:07 pm

In the original case - I'm pretty sure that all the countries involved will defer any possible jurisdiction to Austria.

Basically - their cops investigated the case, their legal system has to deal with it - and unless the dead or accused has high level political connections - no other nation is going to want to be involved.

Germany certainly wants nothing to do with the case, nor the UK or Australia.

There is a very long history of maritime law which is the basis for aviation law - and pretty much everything which can occur has happened in the past. So there is probably a precedent which would apply to this case.
 
Vega9000
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Wed Dec 19, 2007 12:09 am



Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 12):
In the original case - I'm pretty sure that all the countries involved will defer any possible jurisdiction to Austria.

Well, I'm under the impression that the USA tends to get very involved when one of their citizens gets killed in a foreign country. And there's also the question of Austrian law. If it is determined that no crime occurred in Austrian soil (or airspace), then the Austrian courts would probably declare themselves incompetent to handle the case, even if it was Austrian police that arrested and investigated.

So if Germany wants nothing to do with it, and extradition to the US is illegal, then what? Australia?

There seems not to be a simple answer, that's why we couldn't reach a consensus...
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rfields5421
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:27 pm



Quoting Vega9000 (Reply 13):
Well, I'm under the impression that the USA tends to get very involved when one of their citizens gets killed in a foreign country.

No and yes. The US government almost never seeks jurisdiction or an official role in the investigation or trail. The US government does offer technical assistance of our FBI forensic capability many times a year to many nations. Provided the deceased is not a US government official or law enforcement agent. Fairly recent US law does make it a US federal crime to commit acts of violence against such officials anywhere worldwide.

Depending upon the victim and the circumstances - the surviving family can work to create intense news media coverage.

When it's a young pretty teenage girl - that feeds into a lot of parent's fears about letting their children travel without them. Makes an easy sell in the media when there is not much other news.

Let something happen to a near retirement old bald fat grandfather - nobody cares. Not 'sexy' enough to sell in the media.

Even in the recent case in Aruba - the US government never officially asked for jurisdiction or custody of the suspects.

According to the best information I can quickly find - there are over a hundred deaths of US citizens outside the US each year due to criminal action.

http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh6-Injuries.aspx

Quote:
Homicide was the second leading cause of injury death among American travelers in foreign countries, accounting for almost 400 deaths during 2003-2005.



Quote:
Road traffic crashes headed the list of causes (34%), followed by homicide (17%), and drowning (13%). (By comparison to U.S. injury fatalities in 2003, road traffic crashes accounted for 27%, homicide 11%, and drowning 2% of all injury deaths [5]).



Quote:
In 2000, about 1.6 million persons lost their lives to violence and only 20% were casualties of armed conflicts.

http://travel.state.gov/law/family_issues/death/death_3753.html

I've been involved in the cases/ results of about 20 deaths by criminal action/ suspected criminal action of US citizens outside the US. 20 years in the US Navy - 16 outside the US - brings you close to such situations. I seen sailors and US military dependent US citizens convicted in local courts, and killers of such people convicted in local court. I've seen some get away with murder, or manslaughter. But the only time I've seen the US seek jurisdiction was when both parties were US military and subject to the UCMJ which has no geographical jurisdiction limitations.



I can only think of one case where the US government insisted upon jurisdiction - a murder on Clark AB, Philippines back in the early 70s. The victim was US Air Force, the suspect was his US citizen wife. At that time Clark had extra-terratorilaty - it was part of the US, not the Philippines legally. When the US federal courts determined that there was no US government jurisdiction in the case because the civil laws did not specifically include that non-military personnel were subject to US law outside the physical limits of the US (a law was quickly changed to give that jurisdiction). The Philippines tried to take the case. The US refused, not because they wanted a murder to get away with the crime - but because they insisted upon retaining the status of Clark as being part of the US.

Maritime law has provisions for signatories where they have jurisdiction in cases when the ship makes first landfall in their ports. The law/ treaties specifically deal with who has jurisdiction. Aviation law is based upon maritime law and I'm pretty sure I've read that a similar provision exists.

Basically, Austria has to take jurisdiction because the aircraft landed in Austria - the first available 'port'. There could be an argument by the accused in Austrian courts that the 'crime' did not occur in Austria and there was no jurisdiction. The decision would probably rest with whether Austria's treaty obligations are enforceable in Austrian courts.

That is a thorny issue in the US when state law is in conflict with federal government treaties.
 
Vega9000
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RE: Which Law Applies In An Airplane Crime?

Wed Dec 19, 2007 8:04 pm



Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 14):
Basically, Austria has to take jurisdiction because the aircraft landed in Austria - the first available 'port'.

Ha. That makes sense. Thanks for your information. However, this would probably apply on a ship (or an airplane) that entered the first "port" coming from international waters, or international airspace. Since it comes from German Airspace, I'm not so sure...

But thank you all for your valuable input.
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