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OpryLeigh's avatar

If someone commits a crime in a country they are not a citizen of should they be tried in that country or sent back to their own country to be tried?

Asked by OpryLeigh (25259points) October 9th, 2009

I recently saw a programme in which a British man was tried and found guilty in (I believe) Thailand for smuggling a fairly small amount of drugs. He got 20 years in a Thai prison and the programme was documenting some of his time there.

If he had been tried in Britain the chances of him getting such a steep punishment would be extremely slim, a couple of years in prison at the most I would say at a guess and his quality of life in a British prison would be far better than in the filthy Thai prison that he is currently residing in.

I’m all for punishing criminals and, unlike a lot of people, I am not completely against prisons (although I firmly believe they should be used as rehabilitation and not just as punishment) but where do we draw the line and who should decide what punishment fits the crime?

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41 Answers

saraaaaaa's avatar

First post, win!

I think it depends on the level of harm that crime causes, but then where do you draw the line I guess. If someone from one country takes a life in another country then I think yes, that country should be allowed to punish them accordingly.

hug_of_war's avatar

I think they should be tried in the country where the crime was committed. You go to other places and I think they should have the right to try you for any grievances you caused. Ignorance is no excuse.

Grisaille's avatar

@saraaaaaa Please don’t “first” here. I beg of you.

Deported back to their country to be tried – justly. In a perfect world, the person’s home country’s courts would see the case as if it happened in the mainland. Normally it doesn’t, but I don’t believe a country should have jurisdiction over a tourist, ever. Arrest, detain and deport? Absolutely. But never detain and sentence.

saraaaaaa's avatar

@Grisaille Sorry, excitement got the better of me.

froggy127's avatar

When you go to another country, you are not only a guest in that country, but even more so an ambassador of your own country. As for the man in that program you saw, I think it was probably the one where he was basically framed when the officials placed the drugs in his pack. All evidence supported that, yet they prosecuted him anyways to meet quota, or something. That part sucks for him, but ultimately he was not aware of his surroundings or his company when he was there.

But, for those who care less about that, consider this scenario, where a person is punished in his own country for crimes in the country he visits:
A man is a resident of a country called “Gooberland” where murder is punished by a mere 10 days in jail. He comes to your country, USA, and murders your mother and father. He is extradited back to Gooberland, where he spends his 20 days in jail. He is then able return to your country by the end-of-the-month and basically gloat that he “got away with it”, or even worse- kill again…

YES, I believe people should be held accountable in the country where the crime is committed.
If you go to another country, you are responsible for ensuring that you are aware of the laws of that country. Otherwise you are just ignorant, and deserving of the punishment.

froggy127's avatar

I realize I’m new here- please excuse the long answer.

saraaaaaa's avatar

Long answers are not a problem here within limits, it’s the effort and consideration of your answer people will appreciate ^^

FutureMemory's avatar

That wasn’t long, just look at some of dalepetries comments

MrItty's avatar

You don’t get to decide which laws you follow. When you step into another governing territory, you agree to abide by that territory’s laws – and their punishments. If their laws and punishments are unacceptable to you, you don’t go to that territory.

Grisaille's avatar

@froggy127 That’s long? Hahaha, browse around more, my friend.

Back into the meat of the discussion, as much as I would want justice – that is not a just situation. For starters, I highly doubt that the country would allow him back in after he committed murder – secondly, “Gooberland” sounds like an awfully lax country that we wouldn’t even deal with. If a sentence for homicide is ten days, then obviously their government is not on par with the global community and would be shunned from international talks.

Secondly, it is my firm belief that no country should have jurisdiction over a foreigner, ever. That sounds harsh and rigid (particularly with regards to your hypothetical situation), but it is just the same for this British man @Leanne1986 is alluding to. It’s also akin to saying that a journalist could be detained a fascist country for doing their job and no one could save them. (Thank you, Bill.)

The situation goes as such:

- You are from your own country and are bound by and are expected to uphold the laws of it.

- When you visit an outside country, you are expected to follow the laws of that country as well.

- If you do something unlawful, you are to be arrested and deported.

- You are placed on the blacklist and not allowed to visit that country again, or corresponding, allied nations. Whatever your home country does to you is within their rights to do so – NOT the foreign country.

If a country decides to try an individual from another nation, then that every individual from that nation is no longer protected by their country when they step foot outside of it. A dangerous practice.

froggy127's avatar

Whoa, @Grisaille! I guess I overestimated my wordiness!! Thanks.

Darwin's avatar

it is my firm belief that no country should have jurisdiction over a foreigner, ever.

So we can’t jail folks involved in 9/11 or other terrorist acts? Instead we should send them home to be treated as heroes?

What about the Railroad Killer? He was a foreigner and he just kept killing until Texas stopped him.

And what about the 20% of crime in London committed by foreigners?

Grisaille's avatar

Unfortunately – yes.

As much as I hate to say it… especially being a resident New Yorker… yes, and this is probably one of my more radical ideologies.

Doing so serves a few purposes. Firstly, it protects your citizens, tourists, journalists, doctors etc. from ever being placed under unlawful jurisdiction, as there will always be a fear of military action (whether or not military action actually happens is entirely per-case and up to the government to decide, sadly).

Secondly, if there was some sort of organized attack against Country X, I believe that is an entirely different scenario. If the 9.11 attacks were proven to not be the work of radicals and instead the act of an entire nation, then those who we capture on our soil become POWs. Similarly, if we are given permission by another country to engage with a radical group that festers in their nation and find contacts working in our own, they are also to be considered to be POWs.

Also, consider the promise of cost reduction. It costs a hell of a lot more to detain and execute or detain for life than it does to deport an individual.

Yes, I know that sounds rather crude and not just. But any nation that thinks of itself to be a prime example of a civilized, progressive nation in the world community should lead by example. By indulging in trying individuals that are not your citizens or under your jurisdiction, without proper consent from the individual’s country (let’s be clear, here), then you are burning down what you stand for and are just asking for the same to be done to your own citizens, more than likely in a less-than-desirable nation.

marinelife's avatar

@froggy127 and @MrItty GA to you both!

All nations have sovereign rights. If you elect to travel outside our country to another country, you are subject to its sovereignty while you are there and responsible for obeying its laws.

Thus, the right to try you is that country’s for crimes committed within its borders.

There is no traveling home nation bubble or protection. Nor should there be except for diplomats. As to that exception, I think it should not, as it sometimes is, be an excuse for criminal behavior. I think certain levels of crime should automatically revoke diplomatic immunity.

mattbrowne's avatar

Both, in the case of a conviction. There’s the famous case in Germany about a islamist extremist Turk called Metin Kaplan. He wanted to turn the city of Cologne into an theocracy creating a small “caliphate state”. He called himself the Caliph of Cologne. He formed a movement and their explicit goal was to remove the German constitution and end democracy. This is illegal in Germany. He was tried an convicted. Eventually he was brought back to Turkey against his will, see

The case is a bit more complicated because he was facing the death penalty in Turkey at the time and extradition to countries with the death penalty is usually impossible in Germany. This includes the United States which seems a bit odd.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Grisaille I was waiting for someone to mention the cost of trioals and keeping prisoners!

As a tax payer, I personally hate the fact that some of my taxes are going towards keeping prisoners here when they are not British citizens. Why can’t their own country pay for them? I know that sounds really political incorrect but that’s how I feel.

However, on the flip side, if someone commits a crime here that they would probably get away with in their own country then I don’t like that idea either.

You may have already gathered that I don’t really know where I stand on this subect at the moment!

Grisaille's avatar

Nah, it’s fair. That’s what Fluther is for – opening up discussion.

Darwin's avatar

@mattbrowne – Which is odd? That Germany won’t extradite to the US, or that the US still has the death penalty? What about someone who committed a crime which is not subject to the death penalty and then flees to Germany? Can that person be extradited, or is it a blanket ban?

deni's avatar

When are people gonna stop getting ridiculous amounts of time in jail for DRUGS in the first place?

OpryLeigh's avatar

@deni that’s a whole other discussion

Grisaille's avatar

@deni thank you for making me rage

Jayne's avatar

The purpose of criminal prosecution should never be to punish, it should always be to prevent further harm. Since the host country is not responsible for the criminal, and can always protect its citizens simply by evicting the criminal, the purpose of keeping him there can only be to punish, not to avoid harm, and that is not appropriate. The home country cannot simply evict the criminal, and therefore criminal prosecution is a legitimate means of protection, and does not have to be about punishment. Thus, the home country should prosecute.

EDIT: I rather stupidly neglected the fact that this leaves no real motivation to abide by laws exclusive to the host country. My answer would apply if laws were consistent between countries, although that would then make the question immaterial. So actually, I think the host country should prosecute, because the threat of prosecution then becomes a legitimate means of protecting its citizens.

Grisaille's avatar

nada. drug laws are ridiculous, is all.

cbloom8's avatar

You should be tried under the law of the country that you commit the crime.

Lightlyseared's avatar

If someone comes to my country I like them to obey the laws of my country. If I go to someone elses country I obey the laws of their country.

deni's avatar

@Grisaille oh so you’re agreeing with me? or are you being sarcastic…i’m having trouble figuring out which it is.

@Leanne1986 it IS a whole nother discussion, a big discussion, but that is my opinion on this topic – i think you should be tried in the country you are IN, but in this particular case there is no need for jail time period. just sayin. what kinda drugs were they, by the way?

Grisaille's avatar

No, I agree, haha. Don’t fret.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Darwin – If a US citizen fled from the United States coming to Germany and telling authorities he’s wanted for murder but he’s innocent, then this would create a legal problem. German laws do not allow the extradition in this case because of the death penalty. I think it’s similar in some other EU countries.

deni's avatar

@Grisaille ah, ok, i can rest easy tonight. i have observed some of your arguments in the past with people…they are impressive, lol

OpryLeigh's avatar

@deni If I remember correctly they were class A drugs but a very small amount. In this case I certainly don’t think the punishment was fair but the fact that he was smuggling drugs (as opposed to just being in possesion of them) makes me agree that he deserved some kind of punishment just not one so harsh. I don’t want to discuss too much about how I feel about drugs and the laws attached to them but I do believe smuggling is very different to possesion!

Darwin's avatar

@mattbrowne – So if he embezzled a huge amount of money, then fled to Germany, protesting his innocence, would he be extradited? There is no death penalty for embezzlement in the US.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Darwin – I think so. Another factor is torture. If someone from, say North Korea embezzled a huge amount of money and he’s facing torture when extradited, he could stay in Germany. Since Obama has now banned torture in the United States an embezzler from the US would be extradited.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

In that particular instance, they should be tried in the country where they broke the law. Crimes of drugs are kind of a dumbass thing, drugs are illegal just about everywhere so people take their chances and choose, actively choose to take the risks. I feel they can rot there.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence I agree with that. Whether you agree with the drug laws or not you are aware that they are illegal and so, if you are caught, take some responsibillity for your own stupid actions!

scamp's avatar

My first reaction was to say I think you should obey the laws of the country you are in and if you don’t, you are subject to that country’s penaltys/punishments. If you don’t want to go to jail, don’t break the law. It’s pretty simple to understand, especially when it comes to drugs and other obviously illegal things.

But when it comes to lesser crimes that one may may not know of, that would be a different story, wouldn’t it? For example, Women may not drive in a house coat. in California, but how is someone from another country to know of such an obscure law? Granted, no one enforces those old silly laws, but what if they did? And what if the punishment for something so silly was very severe in another country?

I think @Grisaille was on to something when he said: Arrest, detain and deport? Absolutely. But never detain and sentence. This is a very interesting and thought provoking question!

Jack79's avatar

Each country has its own rules. Should a Thai person doing the same in the UK be tried according to Thai law? By smuggling drugs in Thailand, this person was not breaking any UK law, so it doesn’t matter what he would have got hypothetically, because he was never tried in Britain, and rightly so. Britain has no laws against trafficking drugs in Thailand, only about trafficking drugs in Britain itself.

Now of course the point is what happens if a citizen used to a certain way of life and rules goes to another country without knowing the local laws (but also customs and unwritten rules). Americans often get into trouble in Europe just for being themselves. And I had a couple of Slovenian friends who got into trouble in Iran because the girl was dressed inappropriately (ie like a normal Slovenian on holiday, but not like a normal Iranian woman). In that case people should be informed of special differences, especially if they can get them in danger. I remember being clearly informed of the stricter Singaporean laws when I first flew there from Australia. And again, I remember one occasion, when entering the UK from Holland, where the customs officer (there were still border checks back then) offered me a deal saying if I gave him any drugs I might have, he’d simply confiscate them and let me walk free. I didn’t, and he didn’t believe me, so I was searched instead.

And of course it’s also our own responsibility to double-check for dangers such as these when travelling abroad. I found that out the hard way in Bosnia.

Grisaille's avatar

@scamp You sure I’m not just ON something?

bricklayer's avatar

I’d say that the government of the country the crime was committed in has every right to try the suspected individual, regardless of his/her nationality. What the government decides to do with that individual is up to its laws. Let’s say an individual brought nothing to a foreign country, stole something, consumed it, and was on trial. In this case, if the individual were sentenced, the government (I assume) would have no access to the individual’s property in his/her home country, assuming the individual was unwilling to pay back the victim. Now what does the government do? How does the victim receive restitution? Further, if the government just deports the suspected individual, does the victim have to travel to his/her home country to present evidence, etc.? I’d say local courts should handle local cases. Maybe the accused could be deported upon finding him/her guilty, but again, what guarantee is there that the victim will get justice from the home country of the foreigner?

As for the specific case in question, I think drug laws are ridiculous, as are most “regulatory” laws. But, that’s another issue.

cletrans2col's avatar

@mattbrowne I think that no matter what the penalty, you flee because you committed a crime then you should still be extradited.

tacres's avatar

When in Rome….... Remember you are safer at home!
If you are a guest in my home you abide by my rules, same rule applies when you are a guest in another country.

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