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Wildenhus’ Case

United States Supreme Court
120 U.S. 1 (1887)


Wildenhus, a Belgian national and crewmember on board a Belgian ship docked at Jersey City in the United States, killed a fellow crewmember and Belgian national onboard the ship. Local American police arrested Wildenhus and detained him and two other Belgian crewmembers as witnesses. The Belgian consul applied for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Article 11 of the Convention Concerning the Rights, Privileges, and Immunities of Consular Officers between the United States and Belgium. This Convention provided that the consuls of a home State should exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the internal matters affecting that State’s vessels, regardless of whether the vessel is located within a foreign State’s territory. However, the Convention provided that when a matter is of such a nature as to disturb the peace and tranquility of the local State, that State’s authorities may exercise jurisdiction over the matter without interference from the home State. The circuit court refused to grant the Belgian consul’s application for a writ of habeas corpus, and the consul appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Waite, C.J.)

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