228. Circular Telegram 256207 From the Department of State to All Diplomatic and Consular Posts.1 2


  • Act for Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons (H.R. 15552) and International Conventions on This Subject
On October 8, 1976 the President signed the Act for the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons (H.R.15552). The new act amends the U.S. Criminal Code (Title 18) to provide extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute persons who commit offenses established under its predecessor act (P.L. 92–539, October 24, 1972). Specifically these offenses include murder (18 U.S.C. 1116), kidnapping (18 U.S.C. 1201), and assault (18 U.S.C. 112(a)). The 1972 act provided federal jurisdiction for these offenses when the victim was a foreign official or official guest of the United States. The new act adds “internationally protected persons” to the category of protected individuals and establishes as felonies (1) attempts to murder, kidnap or assault internationally protected persons; (2) threats to kill, kidnap or assault internationally protected persons, and (3) the making of extortionate demands in conjunction with threats or commission of any of the specified crimes against internationally protected persons (18 U.S.C. 878). U.S. jurisdiction for these new offenses is also extraterritorial.
This act has important application to the Foreign Service and other USG officials and employees serving abroad who are “entitled pursuant to international law to special protection,” as well as any member of their families forming part of their households. Since these specified crimes are all punishable under U.S. law “irrespective of the place where the offense was committed or the nationality of the victim or the alleged offender,” the jurisdictional problems encountered in the Erdos case (involving killing of an FSO by another FSO in Equatorial Guinea) and the Keesee case (involving the kidnap/murder of an FSO by an American citizen in Mexico) will be eliminated. Thus, the United States will henceforth have the clear legal right to prosecute any person alleged to have committed crimes against FSO’s and other U.S. personnel entitled to protection under international law, if and when it gets a hold of them.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) are the principal sources of international law to determine entitlements to special protection. VCDR requires that the receiving state take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on the person, freedom or dignity of a diplomatic agent (Article 29) or a member of the administrative and technical staff of the Mission (Article 37). VCCR imposes similar responsibilities on receiving states with respect to consular officers (Article 40). It is the opinion of the Department that all foreign service personnel and USG employees forming part of the diplomatic mission are covered under the new act.
As to protection of USG personnel serving in Military Assistance Advisory Groups (MAAGs) or Military Missions (MILGPs), the agreement between the U.S. and the host country will govern; e.g., the U.S.-Iranian agreement relating to U.S. Military Missions in Iran (including Taft personnel) which specifically accords to U.S. personnel assigned under that agreement privileges and immunities specified in VCDR (TIAS 6594 and 7963). Similar provisions are contained in many MAAG and MILGPs agreements and therefore personnel assigned under those agreements imposing obligations of protection on the receiving state would be covered under the act. Obviously, personnel in offices established within Embassies as successors to MAAG/MILGPs under the recent amendments to the foreign assistance act would be members of the diplomatic mission and covered by the act.
The President also signed the instruments of ratification for the 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 convention) and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, Including Diplomatic Agents (UN convention). The OAS convention, already in force, has as parties Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua (which is also party to U.N. convention). It will enter into force for United States upon deposit of instrument of ratification with OAS Secretary General. Countries which have signed OAS convention but not ratified include Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.
The U.N. convention will enter into force on the thirtieth day following deposit of the twenty-second instrument of ratification or accession. There are four accessions and U.S. ratification will be the fourteenth ratification, making a present total of eighteen parties. Thus, only four additional ratifications or accessions are required to bring this important convention into force. The following countries are parties: Bulgaria, Byelorussian Republic, Canada, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Ecuador, Ghana, Hungary, Liberia, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Sweden, Ukrainian Republic and Soviet Union. The following countries have signed the convention but not yet ratified it: Australia, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, German Democratic Republic, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Tunisia, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia. Notable among non-party countries which have had problems of terrorism (particularly acts involving their diplomatic personnel or diplomatic establishments in their country) are Austria, France, The Netherlands, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
By circular cable (State 211125, September 25, 1974) the Dept urged all posts to request host governments which were not parties to convention to give urgent consideration to becoming parties. On this occasion of the deposit of our instrument of ratification a similar request should have made, especially to signatory countries and those listed above as having experienced terrorism in one form or another. We told Congress in Dept’s testimony on H.R. 15552 that U.S. ratification would, we believed, encourage enough additional ratifications to bring the convention into force soon after our deposit. A priority effort must be made toward achieving this goal.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Limited Official Use. Drafted in L/SFP by Fields. Cleared in L, L/PM, L/T, L/UNA, M/CT, M/DG, and IO; and approved by Eagleburger. The text of President Ford’s Proclamation upon ratification of the Convention to Prevent and Punish Acts of Terrorism Taking the Form of Crimes Against Persons and Related Extortion That Are of International Significance is attached to a memorandum from Borg to Scowcroft, November 3, 1976. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P760182–1026)
  2. The Department informed posts of Presidential action to bring into force domestic legislation and international treaties intended to counteract terrorism and instructed posts to promote anti-terrorism legislation with host governments.