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Extraterritoriality is the state of being exempt from the jurisdiction of local law, usually as the result of diplomatic negotiations. For instance, a citizen of country A may enjoy extraterritoriality while visiting country B. In that case, this person cannot legally be tried by the courts of country B for some alleged crime.
A historic case of extraterritoriality was the seizure of the railways of Nicaragua by Brown Brothers and Harriman, a U.S. banking firm. Under the Knox-Castrillo Treaty of 1911 these railroads became legally part of the State of Maine, according to former president of Guatemala, Juan José Arévalo, in his book The Shark and the Sardines (Lyle Stuart, New York, 1961). Similarly, president George W. Bush has used the apparently extraterritorial status of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as a means to deny access to courts of law to prisoners held there, asserting that neither Cuban nor U.S. law was in effect, meaning that his word was law in that base. Bush's claim was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The old legalism is noted for its usage concerning European nationals in 19th century China and Japan. Extraterritoriality in modern China was clearly etablished by the Nanking Treaty resulting from the First Opium War. Japan recognized extraterritoriality in the treaties concluded with the United States, Britain, France, Netherlands, and Russia in 1858, though Japan succeeded in reforming her unequal status with Western countries through the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation signed on July 16, 1894 in London. This abolished extraterritoriality in Japan for British subjects with effect from July 17, 1899.
See also: Imperialism in Asia
Traditional cases of extraterritoriality
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