The United States is not usually regarded as a timid prosecutor. Indeed, U.S. enthusiasm for extraterritorial criminal jurisdiction has prompted criticism that "a proselytizing spirit" and a "sense of imperial mission" motivate U.S. practice. Nevertheless, the United States is one of the least aggressive proponents of one of the most widely accepted forms of extraterritorial jurisdiction: nationality-based criminal jurisdiction, or criminal jurisdiction based on the nationality of the offender. Consequently, when a U.S. national commits a violent crime in a state that subsequently does not prosecute, the U.S. offender avoids prosecution altogether because the United States lacks jurisdiction. This jurisdictional gap is not hypothetical; it prevents prosecution of a number of serious cases every year.
Geoffrey R. Watson,
Offenders Abroad: The Case for Nationality-Based Criminal Jurisdiction,
Yale J. Int'l L.
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