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About Jurisdictional Issues in International Waters?

A major issue with murder on the high seas is who has jurisdiction over the crime. It is a well-accepted norm in International Law that nations have supreme “territorial jurisdiction,” meaning a nation has power over events and persons within the bounds of their geographic territory that also includes territorial waters. Today, territorial waters generally include 12 nautical miles (22.22 kilometers or 13.81 miles) from the nation’s coast. (See U.N.C.L.O.S. III.) Thus, the nation where a crime physically took place would generally have jurisdiction over all those involved, regardless of their citizenship. For crimes committed on the high seas, areas that are not controlled by any one state, the citizenship of those involved usually dictates which country has jurisdiction. For U.S. citizens, crimes committed on the high seas would involve investigative agencies such as the Coast Guard and likely the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Coast Guard has authority to make inquiries, examinations, inspections, searches, seizures, and arrests upon the high seas and waters that the U.S. has jurisdiction over, for the prevention, detection, and suppression of violations of U.S. laws. (See 14 U.S.C. 89.) The FBI was created to serve as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency. The agency’s role in international investigations can extend to other countries through extraterritorial jurisdiction (where a nation exercises authority beyond its borders, with the approval of the host country).