Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and Jurisdiction Following Forcible Abduction: A New Israeli Precedent in International Law

An Israeli military court recently convicted Faik Bulut, a twenty three-year-old Turkish citizen, of the offense of belonging to Al-Fatah in Lebanon and Syria and sentenced him to seven years in prison. Bulut was captured in February 1972 during an Israeli raid 100 miles into Lebanon. Ten fedayeen, who were captured in Lebanon later in 1972, were scheduled to follow Bulut into court to be tried for the same offense. These are the first cases to be tried under a 1972 amendment to the Israeli Penal Law (Offenses Committed Abroad), which states in part: “The courts in Israel are competent to try under Israeli law a person who has committed abroad an act which would be an offense if it had been committed in Israel and which harmed or was intended to harm the State of Israel, its security, property or economy or its transport or communications links with other countries.”

The trials raise two important issues in international law. First, is there a substantive basis under international law for the exercise of jurisdiction by the state of Israel despite the fact that the offenses were committed by nonnationals outside Israel? Second, is that exercise of jurisdiction consistent with international law despite the fact that the defendants were brought to Israel in a manner not condoned by international law? While these two issues will be analyzed separately, they are related: Both involve the relative freedom of an individual from the control of foreign legal systems.