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1419. Aircraft Piracy Outside The Special Aircraft Jurisdiction Of The U.S. -- 49 U.S.C. 46502(b)

In order to fully implement the Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, the Antihijacking Act of 1974 (Pub. L. 93-366) created a new provision (former 49 U.S.C. App. § 1472(n)) whereby persons who commit acts of air piracy outside the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States may be punished if they are subsequently found in the United States.

Prior to 1996, the only limitation to this provision was that the place of take-off or actual landing of the aircraft on which the prohibited act was committed must have been outside the territory of the state of registration of that aircraft. The effect of the limitation was to exclude prosecution in the United States of a hijacker who should more properly be prosecuted in the country of the aircraft's registration. On April 24, 1996, the limitation was removed by section 721(a) of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 1298, because it was determined to be a misreading of the Hague Convention. See 141 Cong. Rec. S 2517-18 (daily ed. Feb. 10, 1995). See also this Manual at 1404.

Section 721(a) of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, supra, also expanded the extraterritorial scope of § 46502(b) of Title 49 to cover any hijacking of a foreign civil aircraft (which is outside the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States) when (1) a national of the United States is a perpetrator of the offense or (2) a national of the United States is on such aircraft. Section 46502(b) continues to cover those extraterritorial hijackings of foreign civil aircraft not involving a national of the United States when the offender is subsequently "found" in the United States.

The extraterritorial jurisdiction of §46502(b) has been upheld by the courts when the defendant was subsequently "found" in the United States following his forcible rendition. See United States v. Yunis, 681 F.Supp 896 (D.D.C. 1988), aff'd, United States v. Yunis, 924 F.2d 1086 (D.C. Cir. 1991). See also United States v. Rezaq, 134 F.3d 1121, 1130-33 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (government did not unlawfully manufacture jurisdictional element that defendant be "found in the United States" when it forcibly brought the defendant to the United States).

[updated August 1999] [cited in JM 9-63.100]

Updated January 17, 2020