Skip to main content

Primary tabs

Criminal Resource Manual

1615. Protection Of Foreign Officials -- Internationally Protected Persons And Official Guests -- 18 U.S.C. §112, 878, 970, 1116, 1117 And 1201

These statutes have a common origin in a 1791 Act of Congress making punishable the offering of violence to the person of an ambassador or other public minister. See S. Rep. 1179, 88th Cong., 2d Sess. 1964, reprinted in 1964 U.S. Code & Cong. and Adm. News 3170, 3171. As the conduct of international diplomacy became more complex, and the United States assumed international obligations to afford protection to foreign officials, diplomats and other foreign visitors, the statutes were enacted or amended in scope to effectuate such protection. In 1972, Title 18 was amended to make punishable under Federal law the murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, assault, or intimidation of a "foreign official" or "official guest." See Pub. L. 92-539 (1972). The amendment was considered necessary by Congress to give effect to "international obligations of the United States to resident diplomatic, consular and other foreign government personnel and their families within [the] borders [of the United States]," and to extend similar protection to private foreign citizens visiting the United States pursuant to official recognition. See S. Rep. No. 1105, 92d Cong., 2d Sess (1972), reprinted in 1972 U.S. Code Cong. and Adm. News 4316.

In 1976, these statutes were again amended to afford similar protections to "internationally protected persons." See Pub. L. 94-467 (1976). The express legislative purpose of the 1976 amendment was to "implement the Organization of American States Convention to Prevent and Punish the Acts of Terrorism Taking the Form of Crimes Against Persons and Related Extortion That Are Of International Significance (OAS Treaty), and the United Nations "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, Including Diplomatic Agents" (U.N. IPP Treaty). Thus, the constitutional basis for these statutes is, in large measure, Congress' power to "define and punish offenses against the law of nations." See U.S. Const. Art. 1, § 8, cl. 10.

[cited in USAM 9-65.800]