Let's say for example that I am the resident of country X. I'm a hacker and I decided to hack into bank accounts of people from Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi Arabia has a law which prohibits hacking bank accounts and gives a penalty of cutting the hands of the criminal if he is caught doing that practice. My own country also has a law forbidding hacking bank accounts, but instead gives a penalty of 5 years of prison if I ever get caught.

I'm a citizen of country X, and I decided to hack the bank accounts of people from Saudi Arabia. However, due to failure protecting my identity, the government of Saudi Arabia was able to get hold of my name and my home address. Can Saudi Arabia track me down and have me subjected to their law and proceed to cut off my hands, or am I going to be subjected to the punishment of my own country's law?

  • No, and I didn't understand very much what was written it was unclear @BlueDogRanch – Histerya Aug 1 '20 at 16:12
  • Does Country X extradite to Saudi Arabia? – Trish Aug 3 '20 at 12:03

The victim's country might seek the suspect's extradition from the country of residence.

Extradition is a formal law enforcement process whereby the authorities in each country cooperate to hand over the suspect to the victim's country.

Whether extradition can take place depends on factors such as:

  • whether it's permitted by the constitution of the country of residence - some constitutions do not permit the extradition of their citizens

  • whether there is an extradition treaty between the two countries (e.g. the US-Canada extradition treaty) or as part of the laws within a supranational body of which the countries are members (e.g. the EU)

  • the outcome of an extradition hearing, if there is one - the suspect might be allowed to appeal against the extradition (and against an adverse decision)

  • whether the government of the country of residence approves or blocks the extradition

A case pertinent to your hypothetical is that of Gary McKinnon, a Briton resident in the UK who was accused by the US government of hacking into many military and NASA computers. He was indicted by a federal grand jury and the US sought his extradition from the UK. After a few years of litigation, including appeals to the-then superior court of the UK the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights, which on the whole went against him, his extradition was blocked by the-then Home Secretary Theresa May on human rights grounds.

A process outside the legal system of the victim's country is extraordinary rendition - although sometimes the government of the suspect's country secretly cooperates. This is state-sponsored kidnapping or abduction - agents of the 'victim' country grab the suspect and move him to that country or some other place. So far as I'm aware, however, it has not been used on hackers - only people suspected of terrorism. There is at least one known case where the person was abducted by mistake.

Alternatively the two countries might come to an agreement whereby the person is tried in the country of residence and punished there if convicted.

  • I didn't understand what you meant by "the outcome of an extradition hearing, if there is one - the suspect might be allowed to appeal against the extradition" – Histerya Aug 1 '20 at 17:20
  • Also it would be extremely helpful if you can provide me with some website with countries and whether they permit extradition or not @Lag – Histerya Aug 1 '20 at 17:44
  • Apart from the if there might be other restrictions (certianly as part of the extradition treaties). In the given example, the extradition might be subject to the condition that penalties considered cruel in the country of residence shall not be applied / are promised to be converted to e.g. prison – Hagen von Eitzen Aug 1 '20 at 19:25
  • Just a note to add that its not just country of residence - if the perpetrator chooses to travel, they have to be aware that any country they travel to or transit via can also be requested to extradite (if such a treaty exists between Saudi Arabia and the holiday or transit country). – Moo Aug 1 '20 at 23:59

You've asked two distinct, but related, questions:

  1. Even if you were never in a country, can you be charged with breaking their laws? and,

  2. If you are convicted of breaking their laws, can they punish you?

To take your example:

First, whether the Saudis could charge you for breaking their laws depends on the extraterritoriality or extraterritorial jurisdiction of their cyber-law. As the name says, extraterritoriality deals with whether a country's law applies outside its borders. Whether a law is extraterritorial depends on the specific law and country. For example, American courts are guided by the presumption of territoriality, that unless a statute explicitly says otherwise, statutes apply only inside the country. Because many hackers and other cyber-criminals are never physically in the same country as their victims, cyber-law often applies extraterritorially.

Second, whether, once charged, you could be tried without being in the country, also depends on the country. In many countries, people can be tried in absentia, (without being at the trial) so it is possible the Saudis could convict you without you going to Saudi Arabia.

Finally, punishment is not extraterritorial -- you must be in the country that convicted you to be punished. As Lag points out, it seems clear could extradite you. Extradition is the legal process of sending someone accused or convicted of a crime in another country back to that country for trial or punishment. Extradition is covered by treaties. For various reasons, many countries do not have extradition treaties with the Saudis, although as a practical matter, your government may choose to cooperate with the Saudis.

(The case of Jamal Khashoggi suggests the Saudis may have a different understanding of extraterritorial jurisdiction.)

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