Extraterritoriality (Government) – Definition

Cite this article as:"Extraterritoriality (Government) – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated November 22, 2018, last accessed October 29, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/extraterritoriality-government-explained/.


Extraterritoriality Definition

Extraterritoriality is a legal term which refers to extending a home country’s jurisdiction to citizens, businessmen, diplomats and ambassadors in a foreign country. Simply put, it means that laws may be extended to people, businesses, and assets which are not physically located in the home country.

More on Extraterritoriality

The Extraterritoriality Principle refers to the country’s authority that extends beyond its national boundaries. Extraterritoriality extends to vessels, assets, citizen and other professionals. Diplomats and ambassadors are exempted from domestic law, including: prosecution in local courts, arrest by police officers for offenses in foreign country, and they may be exempted from local tax laws. However, in some cases such as piracy, terrorism, human trafficking, and genocides etc., any country can punish criminals for their crimes.

What Are Some Examples of Extraterritoriality?

  • Diplomatic missions – Diplomats and ambassadors enjoy immunity and privileges in the foreign country of their service. These privileges and immunities are provided for by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Diplomats and ambassadors cannot face trail by the domestic country‚Äôs court. Further, police arrest them (except in rare circumstances). Generally, lower level staff of diplomatic missions does not have these privileges. Therefore, the home country can extend its jurisdiction to them on the basis of extraterritoriality principle.
  • Military forces – Military forces that are deployed and stationed under UN umbrella in foreign countries to maintain peace and stability are also exempted from the local law where they are stationed. Under the extraterritoriality principle, the home country of the military force could exercise their jurisdiction while the force is deployed.
  • Criminal law – Criminal laws may be exercised on the basis of extraterritoriality. Instead of foreign countries, many countries prefer to prosecute and try their citizens under their domestic law. They often do not trust judges and courts of other countries. They fear that defendants may not be provided ample opportunities to prove their innocence.

Position within the United Nation (UN)

UN officials, members, and delegations enjoy a broad range of immunities and privileges, including fiscal, criminal and other immunities. These privileges and immunities are covered by the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, adopted by the General Assembly in 1946.

References for Extraterritoriality

Academic Research on Extraterritoriality

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