Reward for murdering Danish cartoonist

Anthony D'Amato [Northwestern U. School of Law]: "Lawyers in Denmark should investigate their criminal law of attempt, incitement to murder, conspiracy to murder, and procuring murder. If any of these are available under Danish law, then there would be no impediment against indicting the Islamic cleric who has offered an immense reward to anyone who murders the Danish cartoonist for the recent highly publicized cartoons. The Danish public prosecutor should be asked to investigate bringing an indictment under Danish law.

It seems to me intolerable that Denmark should not act decisively to protect one of its citizens from the threat of assassination. A person who offers a bounty for murder is himself a felon under any legal system that I am familiar with. The reason for offering the bounty is immaterial.

Under customary international law, Denmark has jurisdiction to prosecute the cleric who has offered the bounty. (See The Lotus Case, PCIJ, 1927.)

If there is an indictment, the Danish prosecutor has two choices. First, he or she may apply to Interpol for the arrest of the accused person. Second, he or she may proceed with the trial in absentia. Such a trial would require notifying the accused person of his right either to present himself in Denmark or to designate a lawyer who would represent his interests in a Danish criminal court. There is no impediment in international law for a criminal trial in absentia given the jurisdictional basis that I mentioned above."

Anthony D'Amato
Leighton Professor of Law

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