Are there actually places on this planet, in the ocean somewhere, where you can travel by ship and then, once you are there, there are no laws?

For example, you could lure on a bunch of little kids with candy, toys and promises of riches/fame, and then subject them to torture and rape out there in the ocean, then travel back and go free from any charge, because it was done on "international waters" and they willingly came with you?

Something tells me that's not how it works.

1 Answer 1


Many countries have the concept of 'extraterritorial application of laws', which means that in many cases courts can and have applied local jurisdictional law to certain crimes committed abroad, especially when the intent of travel was to commit an act that is illegal in the local jurisdiction.

For example:

In this appeal we are confronted with a question of first impression regarding the scope of Congress's power under the Foreign Commerce Clause. At issue is whether Congress exceeded its authority "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations," U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3, in enacting a statute that makes it a felony for any U.S. citizen who travels in "foreign commerce," i.e. to a foreign country, to then engage in an illegal commercial sex act with a minor. 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c). We hold that Congress acted within the bounds of its constitutional authority.

United States v. Clark, 435 F.3d 1100, 1103

So, the real question becomes whether your home country applies its laws extraterritorially or not.

Extra reading on this concept in US law: Extraterritorial Application of American Criminal Law

  • 2
    It is also possible for some country other than your home country to apply its laws to you extraterritorially, is it not? Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 15:04

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