Let's say there's an adult man from a western country having no extraterritorial jurisdiction and does an act in an African country that would be abhorrent and obviously illegal accordint to the laws of his country but it's legal in the country he's doing the act in. According to my logic he wouldn't meet chargen in none of the two countries because, as mentioned;

-the country he's from doesn't have extraterritorial jurisdiction

-the country he does the act in doesn't mandate penalty or prosecution for the former act

so, as far as my layman international law knowledge is concerned (yup, it's pretty little), there's no common intersection between the two countries' laws for which the man can be charged and prosecuted, hence he could even show a video of him doing the thing in front of a police station, if the video shows clearly that the thing is done in that country.

Am I wrong here? Obviously, the question is hypothetical in nature and don't tell me "it depends upon the 2 countries", because I stated the conditions that leave no ambiguity or genericness in the situation above.

  • On the "show the video in front of the police station," having or displaying the video would have to not be illegal in country A also. For example, child molestation is illegal, but so is having videos depicting such acts, and more so displaying videos of such acts.
    – Damila
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 20:17
  • Ok, in that case the other crime applies, but what if he simply tells it to a cop during a conversation only? Does the crime apply in that case too?
    – us er
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 20:30
  • As stated in the existing answers, iff the conditions on your scenario are so specific and tight, then he gets away with it. Usually things that are so abhorrent are not exempt from what you are calling extraterritorial jurisdiction, but there are more than 200 countries in the world so it is possible.
    – Damila
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 20:37
  • I didn't say that those things are exempt from extraterritorial jurisdiction, I mentioned a case in which the perpetrator's country doesn't have it. That's different.
    – us er
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 20:39
  • Yeah, I'm not arguing with you. Just stating that finding a trifecta of country A- no EJ at all, country B- legal, AND the act is abhorrent might not in fact exist. Maybe it does. Add in that the victim better not be a citizen of a country that makes doing the thing to their citizen a crime.
    – Damila
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 20:45

4 Answers 4


Break down the question into its two main parts:

Will country A prosecute the person for an act in country B if country A has no jurisdiction? No.

Will country B prosecute the person for an act in country B if it's not a criminal offence in country B? No.

Therefore it's obvious that the person will not be prosecuted by country A or B.

  • Ok, I thought that for abhorrent, vile and utmost disgusting acts there would be exemptions and rule breakings. Thanks for the answer.
    – us er
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 19:40
  • BTW I didn't ask whether B country punishes people for things that are not a crime in its territory, I asked whether the man would be totally left alone, even if A was to know it or the person was to tell it to a cop.
    – us er
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 19:45
  • @us-er We can only speculate about the extralegal (i.e. outside the legal system) things that a state or its inhabitants might do to such a person.
    – Lag
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 21:42
  • Only if they know about it, otherwise either an supranational court involves itself in the case or the western country breaks its own laws and asks the president or highest charge to proceed either way.
    – us er
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 21:46
  • If the perpetrator is known (through spying and tracking techniques such as chats and calls) to go to a 3 world country and commit things then those are the available options, otherwise....nisba, nothing will occur to him and can potentially reiterate that as many times as he wishes, the only boundaries left for him would be money and time. I hope that's not the case.
    – us er
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 21:49

Yes, there are such “crimes”

For example, possession of cannabis is illegal in, say Indonesia, but legal in, say Canada. An Indonesian citizen in Canada can possess cannabis without legal consequence.

  • Exactly, but I do not know whether this applies for the most abhorrent acts.
    – us er
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 12:08
  • 1
    “The most abhorrent acts” is a little vague. For example, murder is illegal in both Canada and Indonesia but blasphemy is only illegal in Indonesia. Some people consider the latter more “abhorrent” than the former; just not most Canadians.
    – Dale M
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 21:27
  • Well, then it means that the overall question depends on how the two jurisdictions deal with the situations, and since I assumed that one of them has hypothetically no issue, then it's up to the other one, and it may be that it'd go against its own laws if required.
    – us er
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 22:00

I would consider it quite unlikely that a country consideres a certain crime “abhorrent and obviously illegal” but at the same time doesn't assume extraterritorial jurisdiction. In the unlikely event that this happens, neither country A nor country B would prosecute the act in question. However, “abhorrent and obviously illegal” crimes would still quite likely be subject to extra-territorial jurisdiction in otherwise unrelated countries C, D and E so an offender would have to plan very carefully where he travels.

As an example, I suggest that you take a look at § 4 et seq. StGB which governs the application of German penal law to crimes committed abroad.

§4 - Application to offences committed on German ships and aircraft
§5 - Offenses committed abroad with specific domestic connection
§6 - Offences committed abroad against internationally protected legal interests
§7 - Other offences committed abroad

For instance, if you tamper with an ATM in Somalia and Somali authorities don't care, you can be arrested and put on trial in Germany, no matter what your nationality is. (Sect. 6 para. 1 sentence 1 item 7 StGB)


  • Then in this case ETJ is applied, so it does not match the scenario. Anyway, it seems weird that, as per this answer, Germany could prosecute a Somali man for a thing committed in Somalia whilst Somali authoriries do not care. That's weird
    – us er
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 14:46
  • Well, if no ETJ is being applied by country A, then neither country A nor country B would prosecute the act. However, if the act is “abhorrent and obviously illegal”, I would consider it quite likely that either country A or an otherwise unrelated country C would assume to have ETJ.
    – erebus
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 14:59
  • Firstly, I thank you for being participant in the conversation, secondly, how can you say that a third, unrelated country would indulge itself into something that is not of its competence?
    – us er
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 15:06
  • Could you mean that USA would involve in such situations, even if it has no take in it?
    – us er
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 15:08
  • I mean, this would be possible if the perpetrator goes in that country C, but assuming that the perpetrator's never been in C, how can they simply go and arrest him?
    – us er
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 15:14

There are countries which have laws that prohibit citizens from doing some things, no matter where.

There are countries that ban certain actions for everyone, no matter where the action took place. So if you are ever in this country, you might be prosecuted. (e.g. you go from A to B, do something legal in B, go back to A but you might be prosecuted in C)

Some countries assert jurisdiction over crimes against their citizens, so if you go from country A to B, and commit a crime against a citizen of country C, which is not a crime in B, country C can prosecute you, even if you are back in A.

There are multinational courts, which could prosecute you.

Without going into more specifics about the action or the countries the only possible answer is:

Yes, you are wrong here!

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 23:13

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