Page images

government against a revolutionary uprising. They were held to be political offenses, and not extraditable.

Judge Morrow, in deciding the case, cited with approval the Castioni case, stating that the array of distinguished counsel appearing in connection with it and the character of the court commended the case as one of the highest authority. He did not attempt to define a political offense, nor did he specifically adopt any of the definitions. proposed. He relied apparently merely upon the similarity of the facts in the two cases:

The opinions of the judges as to the political character of the crime charged against Castioni, upon the facts stated, is exceedingly interesting, but I need only refer to the following passage. Judge Denman says: "The question really is whether, upon the facts, it is clear that the man was acting as one of a number of persons engaged in acts of violence of a political character with a political object, and as part of the political movement and rising in which he was taking part." *** Applying, by analogy, the action of the English Court in that case to the four cases now before me, under consideration, the conclusion follows that the crimes charged here, associated as they are with the actual conflict of armed forces, are of a political character.

In U. S. ex rel. Giletti v. Commissioner (35 F. (2d) 687 (C. C. A. 2, November 4, 1929)), where deportation to Italy was sought for conviction of a crime in the United States and was resisted as an abuse of discretion for failure to permit Giletti to leave for some country other than Italy, the court, in upholding his deportability, stated during the course of its discussion that the offense was "apparently political, for which he could not be extradited." Giletti had killed another Italian in New York, apparently in a brawl between Fascists and anti-Fascists.

The Attorney General of the United States in an opinion (39 Op. A. G. 215), quoted Lord Denman's definition of a political offense in the Castioni case and also the Stephen's definition. He also quoted a proposed definition in a draft Convention on Extradition, prepared by the Harvard Research in International Law. He did not adopt any of these definitions, however, and stated that it was generally agreed that no satisfactory and acceptable definition of the term had as yet been found.

In the Cazo case (Case of Cazo, I Moore, Extradition 324–325), extradition was sought and refused for murder, assault with intent to commit murder, and robbery, committed by revolutionists during a raid on a town. In the Guerra case (Case of Guerra, IV Moore, Digest of International Law, 335, 336), extradition was sought and refused for murder, arson, robbery, and kidnapping in connection with an attack by revolutionary forces upon 40 Mexican soldiers in the town of San Ignacio, during the course of which private citizens were also assaulted and robbed and their houses burned and three

persons kidnapped. The Ruiz case (Case of Ruiz, IV Hackworth, Digest of International Law, 50-52), arose out of the same attack.

In the Peuren case, the accused had been a member of a revolutionary party. Extradition was sought for murder and robbery. The United States Commissioner held Peuren to be extraditable. The Secretary of State ordered a new hearing on the ground of new evidence tending to establish that the offenses were political, and extradition eventually was refused (Deere, Political Offenses in the Law and Practice of Extradition, 27 American Journal of International Law, p. 267. See also Foreign Relations of the United States, 1909). In the Rudewitz case (IV Hackforth Digest of International Law, 49-50), extradition was sought for the murder of three persons and the robbery and burning of their premises. The United States Commissioner for the Northern District of Illinois found against the accused. Extradition was refused by the Secretary of State. The accused was a member of a revolutionary group that had voted the killings and the burning. The Secretary stated:

In view of these facts and circumstances, the Department, after a mature and careful consideration of the evidence so adduced in this case, finds it is forced to the conclusion that the offenses of killing and burning with which the accused is charged are clearly political in their nature, and that the robbery committed on the same occasion was a natural incident to executing the resolutions of the revolutionary group and cannot be treated as a separate offense, certainly not as a separate offense by this man without some specific identification of him with that particular act, and of this there is no evidence *** However much the Government of the United States may deplore or condemn acts of violence done in the commission of acts having political purpose, however necessary or unjustified they may be considered, if those acts were in fact done in the execution of such a purpose, there is no right to issue a warrant of extradition therefor.

The Government of the United States finds itself impelled to these conclusions not only by the generally accepted rules of international law which forbid the surrender of political fugitives, by the principles of internal jurisprudence, which, proclaimed and acted upon by the courts of this and other countries, declared that "a person acting as one of a number of persons engaged in acts of violence of a political character, with a political object, and as part of the political movement and rising in which he is taking part" is a political offender and so entitled to an asylum in this country; and by the long and consistent course of rulings in which the executive branch of this Government has expressly adopted and carried out such laws and principles-but also by the express provision of article III of the Extradition Treaty between this Government and Russia, which, in precise terms, prohibits the surrender of political offenders. In volume II of his work on International Law, Charles Cheney Hyde, formerly the Solicitor for the Department of State, analyzed the circumstances present when a fugitive within the United States whose surrender had been sought by a foreign government had been. regarded by the executive or by the judicial department of the United States as a political offender within the meaning of a treaty provision

and therefore, had been discharged from custody. He concluded that in every case the following elements had been present:

(1) There had been an uprising of revolutionary origin and purpose, of vast or insignificant proportions, against the demanding government.

(2) The accused had been connected with the movement.

(3) Either the acts charged against the accused had been deemed to be incidental to the movement or the evidence had failed to show that acts committed in the course of the uprising which possibly might not be justly regarded as incidental thereto, had in fact been committed by the accused.

It was his conclusion that, in the absence of an uprising, acts of violence, whether for the purpose of inciting revolution or spreading anarchy, would not be regarded as political offenses under the treaties. of the United States.

As far as it has been possible to ascertain, the question of what constitutes a political offense within the meaning of the immigration laws has been considered on very few occasions, both under the 1907 act and under the 1917 act. In the C-case (53166/24), the former President of Venezuela sought admission into the United States in December 1912, and was excluded in January 1913. The point at issue in the case, which was eventually decided in favor of the alien, was whether C's refusal to answer might be construed by the board of special inquiry as an admission of complicity in a killing. It was charged that C—, while President of Venezuela and in full possession of the authority of that country, directed the killing of P— without trial or hearing of any kind, P— at that time having been made a prisoner while engaged in a revolt against C. In a memorandum dated January 30, 1919, Secretary of Commerce and Labor Nagle stated as follows:


Insofar as this phase of the case is to be considered, a further question arises; namely, whether the killing of P― meets the exception of the statute and is to be regarded as an offense purely political not involving moral turpitude. In extradition cases the decisions seem to hold that the act here in question would be a political offense, although this view has been questioned by high authority. The question is, whether these decisions, rendered under the extradition law then in force, are controlling in this case. Two things must be borne in mind. First, the offense was not committed by a person engaged in revolution against constituted authority. It was committed by the President of the republic in full control of the authority of the State who denied the benefit of the very law which he was charged to preserve. Second, the immigration law was substantially amended in 1903. Up to that time it read, “Provided, That nothing in this act shall be construed to apply to, or exclude, persons convicted of a political offense, notwithstanding said political offense may be designated as a felony, crime, infamous crime, or misdemeanor, involving moral turpitude by the laws of the land whence he came or by the court convicting." The law now reads, "Provided, That nothing in this act shall exclude if otherwise admissible persons convicted of an offense purely political not involving moral turpitude."

Necessarily, force must be given to this amendment, and I cannot assume that any act of violence, committed by the highest authority of the State during a

disturbance in disregard of constituted authority, must under all circumstances be regarded as purely political and not involving moral turpitude. If such a conclusion were to be accepted, then burning at the stake, or subjecting a victim to torture, or indeed any offense committed by an official in charge would satisfy the exception, provided the act is committed during political excitement, and against a participant.

In the M-case (53550/650), the alien who had been convicted of a libel against the King of England sought admission into the United States in December 1912 and was excluded as a person who had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. It was eventually judicially determined that the offense was not one involving moral turpitude, but during the consideration of the question of whether the offense was a political one, Secretary Nagle stated, in part, in a memorandum dated January 16, 1913:

The only question left for discussion is, whether the offense should be regarded as "purely political not involving moral turpitude," and therefore meets the exception in the statute ***.

I have not found a clear definition of “political offense." The accepted rule seems to be that, to constitute a political offense, it is necessary to show something in the nature of concerted action. Mr. Moore says, "The theory that any offense inspired by a political motive is to be considered as a political offense is now discarded." There must be parties to a political controversy, an uprising or a common movement, as a part of which the offense is committed. When this is true, even a common crime may be regarded as a mere incident to the promotion of a political cause *

In the P- case the alien had been a leader in the Militant Suffragette movement in England and sought admission to the United States. She had been convicted in England in 1913 of conspiracy to destroy property and incitement to such destruction in connection with her activities in such movement. Her admission was approved with the comment that the offense of which she was convicted was undoubtedly political.

In the S case (53956/88 and 2304 C-2223932), the subject entered the United States in 1914 under an assumed name. He subsequently surrendered to the Service in October 1915 and admitted that in 1908 he had shot and killed the Governor of the Province of Galicia. S had been a member of a secret revolutionary society that had determined upon the assassination of the Governor for the purpose of improving political conditions affecting the Ukrainians, and he had been selected to carry out, and had carried out, the decision of the group. He was convicted abroad and was sentenced to death. The death sentence was later commuted to imprisonment and he eventually escaped. Assistant Secretary Post, in a memorandum dated December 11, 1915, to the Commissioner General, stated as follows:

Before it becomes mandatorily the duty of the Secretary of Labor to issue a warrant of deportation in this case, he must be satisfied that the case does not

fall within that proviso of section 2 of the immigration laws, which reads as follows:

"Provided, That nothing in this act shall exclude, if otherwise admissible, persons convicted of an offense purely political, not involving moral turpitude.”

An extremely literal interpretation of this proviso might require the Secretary to expel political refugees who had taken or assisted in the taking of human life as an incident to their pursuit of a revolutionary cause, unless they had done so as recognized belligerents. For upon such an interpretation unlawful homicide, even though clearly political in character, might be considered as being a crime involving moral turpitude. But in the face of our historic policy, which has made this country a refuge for the oppressed of all nations, such an interpretation of the legislative intent would be unreasonable. It would, at any rate, be too doubtful an interpretation at the best to reasonably satisfy the Secretary of Labor that this refugee is not within the political proviso quoted above. The warrant is, therefore, issued and canceled.


[ocr errors]

In the A― case (A-4944576), without any discussion, the assassination of the Austrian Prime Minister was held to be a purely political offense within the meaning of the 2d proviso to section 3 of the act of February 5, 1917 (C. O. order March 13, 1943). A stated that he had shot and killed the Minister on October 21, 1916, for political reasons, because he had totally suppressed the legal democratic institutions of the country and had illegally set aside the Parliament for 3 years, violating and destroying the constitutional rights and institutions of the Austrian citizens. He further stated that he was sentenced to death for the offense but was later pardoned by the Emperor; that subsequently the Austrian Republican Government revoked all legal consequences of the sentence; and that he was eventually elected to Parliament. There is no indication in the file that the assassination was a part of any concerted movement or uprising.

In the R case et al. (A-5326956), the Board of Immigration Appeals held that the offenses of conspiracy to tamper with the motive power of a vessel of foreign registry and damaging the motive power of a vessel of foreign registry were not purely political offenses. The aliens were Italian seamen, who on March 29, 1941, on instructions from their government had damaged a vessel of Italian registry while it was in a port in the United States. The Board rejected the theory that the offenses were political offenses, stating that it was doubtful that political aspects should be attributed to an offense committed against the laws of this country by subjects of a nation with which we were then at peace, and found that the offenses committed were not purely political offenses within the meaning of the Immigration laws.

Thus it appears from the cases cited that in order for an offense to constitute a political one, there must be concerted action for a political purpose. In all the cases cited, with the exception of the A case, there appeared to have been such concerted action. The

« PreviousContinue »