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Space Laws: Which law to be applied if a crime is committed in outer space?

Team SoOLEGAL 10 Sep 2019 6:44pm

Image courtesy: Fee.org Space Laws: Which law to be applied if a crime is committed in outer space?


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research is investigating something which could result in the first-ever alleged crime committed in space, as per reports.


US Astronaut Anne McClain has been accused of accessing the bank account of her divorced spouse via the internet while being on board the International Space Station (ISS). However, the US Astronaut has denied the allegations as wrong.


If the said report is considered to be true then the foremost query which arises for deliberation is that which law would be applied in the outer space? By applying a common logic, for a US astronaut aboard the ISS with an alleged US victim, US criminal jurisdiction shall apply.


Nonetheless, the said situation is highly complicated and set to become more arduous with the arrival of space tourism, militarisation and commercial activities in the space as till now, human activity has increased immensely with at least 50 nations currently involved in space activities.


The Space belongs to everyone and to no one and nor can any nation lay claim over it. But that does not mean that Space is a free zone without any national laws. The range of International Laws allows nations to exercise jurisdiction even outside their designated territories in many ways, one being the nationality principle, which involves crimes committed by its citizens outside its territories.


The United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs has under it’s patronage, the five key international treaties governing the outer space. Those five treaties are known as the Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue Agreement, the Liability Convention, the Registration Convention and the Moon Agreement.


The above mentioned treaties lay emphasize on the use of outer space and exploration of space in the interest of all nation without giving any upper hand to any single specific nation. The Moon and other bodies can be explored only for peaceful purposes. Each nation is itself responsible for any activities conducted by it in the outer space and accordingly would be held liable for any loss or damage caused by their activity.


As far as the question of prosecuting the crimes committed in outer space is concerned and as per the present governing international rules and regulations, the spacefaring criminal would generally be subject to the laws of the nation of which they are a citizen or of the nation aboard whose registered aircraft or space shuttle, the crime was committed.


This the story has been published based on an article posted by The Conversation and may include excerpts from it.

Tagged: Space Laws   NASA   International Space Station   Crimes   International Laws  
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