Treason

Treason

Overview
In law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, treason is the crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 or nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

 and treason against a lesser superior was petty treason
Petty treason
Petty treason or petit treason was an offence under the common law of England which involved the betrayal of a superior by a subordinate. It differed from the better-known high treason in that high treason can only be committed against the Sovereign...

. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

Oran's Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as "...[a]...citizen
Citizenship
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

's actions to help a foreign government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 overthrow, make war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 against, or seriously injure the [parent nation]." In many nations, it is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government, even if no foreign country is aided or involved by such an endeavour.

Outside legal spheres, the word "traitor" may also be used to describe a person who betrays
Betrayal
Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations...

 (or is accused of betraying) their own political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

, nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

, family
Family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

, friends, ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

, team
Team
A team comprises a group of people or animals linked in a common purpose. Teams are especially appropriate for conducting tasks that are high in complexity and have many interdependent subtasks.A group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team...

, religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

, or other group to which they may belong.
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Timeline

1478   George, Duke of Clarence, convicted of treason against his older brother Edward IV of England, is executed in private at the Tower of London.

1521   Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, is executed for treason.

1535   Sir Thomas More is executed for treason against King Henry VIII of England.

1536   Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England, is beheaded for adultery, treason, and incest.

1540   Thomas Cromwell is executed at the order of Henry VIII of England on charges of treason. Henry marries his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, on the same day.

1567   At a dinner, the Duke of Alba arrests the Count of Egmont and the Count of Hoorn for treason.

1603   English explorer, writer and courtier Sir Walter Raleigh goes on trial for treason.

1619   Dutch statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt is executed in The Hague after being convicted of treason.

1792   French Revolution: King Louis XVI of France is put on trial for treason by the National Convention.

1793   After being found guilty of treason by the French Convention, Louis XVI of France is executed by guillotine.

 
Quotations

The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.

T. S. Eliot in Murder in the Cathedral|Murder in the Cathedral (1935)

If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.

E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)

All men should have a drop of treason in their veins, if the nations are not to go soft like so many sleepy pears.

Rebecca West|Dame Rebecca West, "The Meaning of Treason" (Revised edition, Penguin Books, 1965), Conclusion, p. 413.
Encyclopedia
In law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, treason is the crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 or nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

 and treason against a lesser superior was petty treason
Petty treason
Petty treason or petit treason was an offence under the common law of England which involved the betrayal of a superior by a subordinate. It differed from the better-known high treason in that high treason can only be committed against the Sovereign...

. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

Oran's Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as "...[a]...citizen
Citizenship
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

's actions to help a foreign government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 overthrow, make war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 against, or seriously injure the [parent nation]." In many nations, it is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government, even if no foreign country is aided or involved by such an endeavour.

Outside legal spheres, the word "traitor" may also be used to describe a person who betrays
Betrayal
Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations...

 (or is accused of betraying) their own political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

, nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

, family
Family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

, friends, ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

, team
Team
A team comprises a group of people or animals linked in a common purpose. Teams are especially appropriate for conducting tasks that are high in complexity and have many interdependent subtasks.A group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team...

, religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

, or other group to which they may belong. Often, such accusations are controversial and disputed, as the person may not identify with the group of which they are a member, or may otherwise disagree with the group leaders making the charge. See, for example, race traitor
Race traitor
Race traitor is a pejorative reference to a person who is perceived as supporting attitudes or positions thought to be against the interests or well-being of their own race...

.

At times, the term "traitor" has been levelled as a political epithet
Epithet
An epithet or byname is a descriptive term accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied to seemingly real or fictitious people, divinities, objects, and binomial nomenclature. It is also a descriptive title...

, regardless of any verifiable treasonable action. In a civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

 or insurrection, the winners may deem the losers to be traitors. Likewise the term "traitor" is used in heated political discussion typically as a slur against political dissidents
Political dissent
Political dissent refers to any expression designed to convey dissatisfaction with or opposition to the policies of a governing body. Such expression may take forms from vocal disagreement to civil disobedience to the use of violence. Historically, repressive governments have sought to punish...

, or against officials in power who are perceived as failing to act in the best interest of their constituents. In certain cases, as with the German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Dolchstoßlegende, the accusation of treason towards a large group of people can be a unifying political message.

In English law
English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...

, high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

 was punishable by being hanged, drawn and quartered
Hanged, drawn and quartered
To be hanged, drawn and quartered was from 1351 a penalty in England for men convicted of high treason, although the ritual was first recorded during the reigns of King Henry III and his successor, Edward I...

 (men) or burnt at the stake
Execution by burning
Death by burning is death brought about by combustion. As a form of capital punishment, burning has a long history as a method in crimes such as treason, heresy, and witchcraft....

 (women), or beheading
Decapitation
Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

 (royalty and nobility). Treason was the only crime which attracted those penalties (until they were abolished in 1814, 1790 and 1973 respectively). The penalty was used by later monarchs against people who could reasonably be called traitors, although most modern jurists would call it excessive. Many of them would now just be considered dissident
Dissident
A dissident, broadly defined, is a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy, or institution. When dissidents unite for a common cause they often effect a dissident movement....

s.

In William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's play King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

(circa 1600), when the King learns that his daughter Regan
Regan (King Lear)
-Role in play:She is the middle child of King Lear's daughters and is married to the Duke of Cornwall. Similarly to her older sister, Goneril, Regan is attracted to Edmund. Both sisters are eager for power and even convince their father with false flattery to hand over his kingdom."Sir, I am madeOf...

 has publicly dishonoured him, he says They could not, would not do 't; 'tis worse than murder: a conventional attitude at that time. In Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

's Inferno
The Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature...

, the ninth and lowest circle of Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 is reserved for traitors; Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...

, who betrayed Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, suffers the worst torments of all: being constantly gnawed at by one of Lucifer's own three mouths. His treachery is considered so notorious that his name has long been synonymous with traitor, a fate he shares with Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold V was a general during the American Revolutionary War. He began the war in the Continental Army but later defected to the British Army. While a general on the American side, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, New York, and plotted to surrender it to the British forces...

, Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

 (who too is depicted in Dante's Inferno, suffering the same fate as Judas along with Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus was a Roman senator, a leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus.-Early life:...

), and Vidkun Quisling
Vidkun Quisling
Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonssøn Quisling was a Norwegian politician. On 9 April 1940, with the German invasion of Norway in progress, he seized power in a Nazi-backed coup d'etat that garnered him international infamy. From 1942 to 1945 he served as Minister-President, working with the occupying...

. Indeed, the etymology
Etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

 of the word traitor originates with Judas' handing over of Jesus to the Roman authorities: the word is derived from the Latin traditor which means "one who delivers."
Christian theology and political thinking until after the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 considered treason and blasphemy
Blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

 as synonymous, as it challenged both the state and the will of God. Kings were considered chosen by God and to betray one's country was to do the work of Satan.

Australia


Section 80.1 of the Criminal Code, contained in the schedule of the Australian Criminal Code Act 1995, defines treason as follows:
"A person commits an offence, called treason, if the person:
(a) causes the death of the Sovereign, the heir apparent of the Sovereign, the consort of the Sovereign, the Governor-General or the Prime Minister; or
(b) causes harm to the Sovereign, the Governor-General or the Prime Minister resulting in the death of the Sovereign, the Governor-General or the Prime Minister; or
(c) causes harm to the Sovereign, the Governor-General or the Prime Minister, or imprisons or restrains the Sovereign, the Governor-General or the Prime Minister; or
(d) levies war, or does any act preparatory to levying war, against the Commonwealth; or
(e) engages in conduct that assists by any means whatever, with intent to assist, an enemy:
(i) at war with the Commonwealth, whether or not the existence of a state of war has been declared; and
(ii) specified by Proclamation made for the purpose of this paragraph to be an enemy at war with the Commonwealth; or
(f) engages in conduct that assists by any means whatever, with intent to assist:
(i) another country; or
(ii) an organisation;
that is engaged in armed hostilities against the Australian Defence Force; or
(g) instigates a person who is not an Australian citizen to make an armed invasion of the Commonwealth or a Territory of the Commonwealth; or
(h) forms an intention to do any act referred to in a preceding paragraph and manifests that intention by an overt act
Overt Act
In criminal law, an overt act , an open act, one that can be clearly proved by evidence, and from which criminal intent can be inferred, as opposed to a mere intention in the mind to commit a crime...

."


A person is not guilty of treason under paragraphs (e), (f) or (h) if their assistance or intended assistance is purely humanitarian in nature.

The maximum penalty for treason is life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

. Section 24AA of the Crimes Act 1914
Crimes Act 1914
The Crimes Act 1914 is a piece of Federal legislation in Australia. Pursuant to the Australian Constitution it prevails in any conflict with State laws dealing with the subject of crime....

 creates the related offence of treachery
Treachery
Treachery is a statutory offence in Australia. There was also an unrelated statutory offence bearing that name in the United Kingdom, but it has been abolished. Both of these offences were derived from or inspired by the related offence of treason. The name treachery was chosen because it is a...

.

New South Wales


The Treason Act 1351
Treason Act 1351
The Treason Act 1351 is an Act of the Parliament of England which codified and curtailed the common law offence of treason. No new offences were created by the statute. It is one of the earliest English statutes still in force, although it has been very significantly amended. It was extended to...

, the Treason Act 1795
Treason Act 1795
The Sedition Act 1661 was an Act of the Parliament of England, although it was extended to Scotland in 1708. The long title was "An Act for Safety and Preservation of His Majesties Person and Government against Treasonable and Seditious practices and attempts"...

 and the Treason Act 1817
Treason Act 1817
The Treason Act 1817 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It made it high treason to assassinate the Prince Regent...

 form part of the law of New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

. The Treason Act 1795
Treason Act 1795
The Sedition Act 1661 was an Act of the Parliament of England, although it was extended to Scotland in 1708. The long title was "An Act for Safety and Preservation of His Majesties Person and Government against Treasonable and Seditious practices and attempts"...

 and the Treason Act 1817
Treason Act 1817
The Treason Act 1817 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It made it high treason to assassinate the Prince Regent...

 have been repealed by section 11 of the Crimes Act 1900
Crimes Act 1900
The Crimes Act 1900 is a New South Wales statute that codifies the common law crimes for the state of New South Wales in Australia. Along with the Crimes Act 1914 and the Federal Criminal Code Act 1995 , these two pieces of legislation form the majority of criminal law for New South Wales.As it is...

, except in so far as they relate to the compassing, imagining, inventing, devising, or intending death or destruction, or any bodily harm tending to death or destruction, maim, or wounding, imprisonment, or restraint of the person of the heirs and successors of King George III of the United Kingdom, and the expressing, uttering, or declaring of such compassings, imaginations, inventions, devices, or intentions, or any of them.

Section 12 of the Crimes Act 1900
Crimes Act 1900
The Crimes Act 1900 is a New South Wales statute that codifies the common law crimes for the state of New South Wales in Australia. Along with the Crimes Act 1914 and the Federal Criminal Code Act 1995 , these two pieces of legislation form the majority of criminal law for New South Wales.As it is...

 (NSW) creates an offence which is derived from section 3 of the Treason Felony Act 1848
Treason Felony Act 1848
The Treason Felony Act 1848 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Act is still in force. It is a law which protects HM the Queen and the Crown....

:
Section 16 provides that nothing in Part 2 repeals or affects anything enacted by the Treason Act 1351
Treason Act 1351
The Treason Act 1351 is an Act of the Parliament of England which codified and curtailed the common law offence of treason. No new offences were created by the statute. It is one of the earliest English statutes still in force, although it has been very significantly amended. It was extended to...

 (25 Edw.3 c. 2). This section reproduces section 6 of the Treason Felony Act 1848
Treason Felony Act 1848
The Treason Felony Act 1848 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Act is still in force. It is a law which protects HM the Queen and the Crown....

.

Brazil


According to Brazilian law
Brazilian law
Brazilian law derives from Portuguese Civil law and is based on statutes and, partly and more recently, súmula vinculante . The Federal Constitution, in force since October 5, 1988, is the supreme law of the country and is the characterized by its rigid written form...

, treason is the crime of disloyalty by a citizen to the Federal Republic of Brazil, applying to combatants of the Brazilian military forces. Treason during warfare is the only crime for which a person can be sentenced to death (see capital punishment in Brazil
Capital punishment in Brazil
Capital punishment was last used as a form of punishment in Brazil in 1876, and has not been officially used since the proclamation of the Republic in 1889...

)
.

The only military person in the history of Brazil
History of Brazil
The history of Brazil begins with the arrival of the first indigenous peoples, thousands of years ago by crossing the Bering land bridge into Alaska and then moving south....

 to be convicted of treason was Carlos Lamarca
Carlos Lamarca
Carlos Lamarca was a Brazilian Army Captain who deserted to become a communist guerilla member. He was a part of the revolutionary guerrilla group Popular Revolutionary Vanguard and became, along with Carlos Marighella, one of the major elements of communist subversion in Brazil...

, an army captain who deserted to become the leader of a left-wing guerrilla against the military dictatorship.

Canada


Section 46 of the Criminal Code of Canada
Criminal Code of Canada
The Criminal Code or Code criminel is a law that codifies most criminal offences and procedures in Canada. Its official long title is "An Act respecting the criminal law"...

 has two degrees of treason, called "high treason" and "treason." However, both of these belong to the historical category of high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

, as opposed to petty treason
Petty treason
Petty treason or petit treason was an offence under the common law of England which involved the betrayal of a superior by a subordinate. It differed from the better-known high treason in that high treason can only be committed against the Sovereign...

 which does not exist in Canadian law. Section 46 reads as follows:
"High treason Every one commits high treason who, in Canada,
(a) kills or attempts to kill Her Majesty, or does her any bodily harm tending to death or destruction, maims or wounds her, or imprisons or restrains her;
(b) levies war against Canada or does any act preparatory thereto; or
(c) assists an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are.
Treason Every one commits treason who, in Canada,
(a) uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Canada or a province;
(b) without lawful authority, communicates or makes available to an agent of a state other than Canada, military or scientific information or any sketch, plan, model, article, note or document of a military or scientific character that he knows or ought to know may be used by that state for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or defence of Canada;
(c) conspires with any person to commit high treason or to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a);
(d) forms an intention to do anything that is high treason or that is mentioned in paragraph (a) and manifests that intention by an overt act; or
(e) conspires with any person to do anything mentioned in paragraph (b) or forms an intention to do anything mentioned in paragraph (b) and manifests that intention by an overt act."


It is also illegal for a Canadian citizen to do any of the above outside Canada.

The penalty for high treason is life imprisonment. The penalty for treason is imprisonment up to a maximum of life, or up to 14 years for conduct under subsection (2)(b) or (e) in peacetime.

France


Article 411-1 of the French Penal Code defines treason as follows:
"The acts defined by articles 411-2 to 411-11 constitute treason where they are committed by a French national or a soldier in the service of France, and constitute espionage where they are committed by any other person."


Article 411-2 prohibits "handing over troops belonging to the French armed forces, or all or part of the national territory, to a foreign power, to a foreign organisation or to an organisation under foreign control, or to their agents". It is punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

750,000. Generally parole is not available until 18 years of a life sentence have elapsed.

Articles 411-3 to 411-10 define various other crimes of collaboration with the enemy, sabotage, and the like. These are punishable with imprisonment for between thirty and seven years. Article 411-11 make it a crime to incite any of the above crimes.

Besides treason and espionage, there are many other crimes dealing with national security, insurrection, terrorism and so on. These are all to be found in Book IV of the Code.

Hong Kong


Section 2 of the Crime Ordinance provides that levying war against the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China, conspiring to do so, instigating a foreigner to invade Hong Kong, or assisting any public enemy at war with the Central People's Government, is treason, punishable with life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

.

Germany


The German law differentiates between two types of treason: "High treason" (Hochverrat) and "treason" (Landesverrat). The high treason, defined in the Section 81 of the German criminal code
Law of Germany
The modern German legal system is a system of law which is founded on the principles laid out by the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, though many of the most important laws as for example most regulations of the civil code were developed prior to the 1949 constitution...

 is defined as a violent attempt against the existence or the constitutional order of the Federal Republic of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, carrying a penalty of life imprisonment or a fixed term of at least ten years. In less serious cases, the penalty is 1–10 years in prison. The German criminal law also criminalizes the high treason against a German state. Preparation of both types of the crime is criminal and carries a penalty of up to five years.

The other type of treason, Landesverrat is defined in Section 94. This is basically the crime of espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

. The crime carries a penalty of one to five years in prison. However, in especially severe cases, life imprisonment or any term of at least of five years may be sentenced.

Ireland



Article 39 of the Constitution of Ireland
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

 (adopted in 1937) states:
treason shall consist only in levying war against the State, or assisting any State or person or inciting or conspiring with any person to levy war against the State, or attempting by force of arms or other violent means to overthrow the organs of government established by the Constitution, or taking part or being concerned in or inciting or conspiring with any person to make or to take part or be concerned in any such attempt.


The Treason Act 1939
Treason Act 1939
The Treason Act 1939 is an Act of the Oireachtas of the Republic of Ireland. It provides for the punishment of treason and related offences.Article 39 of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland defines treason as follows:...

 gave legislative effect to Article 39, and provided for the imposition of the death penalty for treason. The Criminal Justice Act 1990 abolished the death penalty, setting the punishment for treason at life imprisonment, with parole in not less than forty years. No person has been charged under the Treason Act. Irish republican legitimatists
Irish republican legitimatism
A concept within Irish republicanism, Irish republican legitimatism denies the legitimacy of the political entities of Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and posits that the pre-partition Irish Republic continues to exist...

 who refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 have been charged with lesser crimes under the Offences against the State Acts 1939–1998.

Italy


The Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 law defines various types of crimes that could be generally described as 'treason', although they are so many and so precisely defined that no one of them is simply called tradimento in the text of Codice Penale (Italian Criminal Code). The treason-type crimes are grouped as Crimes against the personhood of the State ('Crimini contro la personalità dello Stato') in the Second Book, First Title, of the Criminal Code.

Articles 241 to 274 detail crimes against the international personhood of the State such as Attempt against wholeness, independence and unity of the State (art.241), Hostilities against a foreign State bringing the Italian State in danger of war (art.244), Bribery of a citizen by a foreigner against the national interests (art.246), Political or military espionage (art.257).

Articles 276 to 292 detail crimes against the domestic personhood of the State, ranging from Attempt on the President of the Republic (art.271), Attempt with purposes of terrorism or of subversion (art.280), Attempt against the Constitution (art.283), Armed insurrection against the power of the State (art.284), Civil war (art.286).

Further articles detail other crimes, especially those of conspiracy, such as Political conspiracy through association (art.305), or Armed association: creating and participating (art.306).

The penalties for treason-type crimes, before 1948, included death as maximum penalty, and, for some crimes, as the only penalty possible. Nowadays the maximum penalty is life in jail (ergastolo).

New Zealand


New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 has treason laws that are stipulated under the Crimes Act 1961
Crimes Act 1961
The Crimes Act 1961 is an Act of the Parliament of New Zealand administered by the Ministry of Justice.-Amendments:The Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 amended the Crimes Act, allowing for consensual homosexual relationships between men....

. Section 73 of the Crimes Act reads as follows:
"Every one owing allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen in right of New Zealand
Monarchy in New Zealand
The monarchy of New Zealand also referred to as The Crown in Right of New Zealand, Her Majesty in Right of New Zealand, or The Queen in Right of New Zealand is the constitutional system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of the Realm of New Zealand,...

 commits treason who, within or outside New Zealand,—
(a) Kills or wounds or does grievous bodily harm to Her Majesty the Queen, or imprisons or restrains her; or
(b) Levies war against New Zealand; or
(c) Assists an enemy at war with New Zealand, or any armed forces against which New Zealand forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between New Zealand and any other country; or
(d) Incites or assists any person with force to invade New Zealand; or
(e) Uses force for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of New Zealand; or
(f) Conspires with any person to do anything mentioned in this section."


The penalty is life imprisonment, except that the maximum for conspiracy is 14 years. Treason was the last capital crime
Capital punishment in New Zealand
Capital punishment in New Zealand first appeared in a codified form when New Zealand became a British territory in 1840, and was first employed in 1842. It was last used in 1957, abolished for murder in 1961, and abolished altogether, including for treason, in 1989. During the period that it was in...

 in New Zealand law, with the death penalty not being revoked until 1989, years after it was abolished for murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

.

Very few people have been prosecuted for the act of treason in New Zealand and none have been prosecuted in recent years.

Russia


Article 275 of the Criminal Code of Russia. defines treason as "espionage, disclosure of state secrets, or any other assistance rendered to a foreign State, a foreign organization, or their representatives in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation, committed by a citizen of the Russian Federation." The sentence is imprisonment for 12 to 20 years. It is not a capital offence, even though murder and some aggravated forms of attempted murder are (although Russia currently has a moratorium on the death penalty). Subsequent sections provide for further offences against state security, such as armed rebellion and forcible seizure of power.

Switzerland


There is no single crime of treason in Swiss law
Swiss law
Swiss law is a set of rules which constitutes the law in Switzerland.Swiss laws are identified by their number in the federal Systematische Rechtssammlung . The SR numbers are arranged topically and hierarchically.E.g...

; instead, multiple criminal prohibitions apply. Article 265 of the Swiss Criminal Code
Strafgesetzbuch (Switzerland)
The Strafgesetzbuch is the Criminal Code in Swiss law. The original version was created on 21 December 1937. It entered into force on 1 January 1942...

 prohibits "high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

" (Hochverrat/haute trahison) as follows:
"Whoever commits an act with the objective of violently
– changing the constitution of the Confederation
Swiss Federal Constitution
The Federal Constitution of 18 April 1999 is the third and current federal constitution of Switzerland. It establishes the Swiss Confederation as a federal republic of 26 cantons , contains a catalogue of individual and popular rights , delineates the responsibilities of the...

 or of a canton,
– removing the constitutional authorities of the state from office or making them unable to exercise their authority,
– separating Swiss territory from the Confederation or territory from a canton,
shall be punished with imprisonment of no less than a year."


A separate crime is defined in article 267 as "diplomatic treason" (Diplomatischer Landesverrat/Trahison diplomatique):
"1. Whoever makes known or accessible a secret, the preservation of which is required in the interest of the Confederation, to a foreign state or its agents, (...) shall be punished with imprisonment of no less than a year.
2. Whoever makes known or accessible a secret, the preservation of which is required in the interest of the Confederation, to the public, shall be punished with imprisonment of up to five years or a monetary penalty."


In 1950, in the context of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the following prohibition of "foreign enterprises against the security of Switzerland" was introduced as article 266bis:
"1 Whoever, with the purpose of inciting or supporting foreign enterprises aimed against the security of Switzerland, enters into contact with a foreign state or with foreign parties or other foreign organizations or their agents, or makes or disseminates untrue or tendentious claims (unwahre oder entstellende Behauptungen / informations inexactes ou tendancieuses), shall be punished with imprisonment of up to five years or a monetary penalty.
2 In grave cases the judge may pronounce a sentence of imprisonment of no less than a month."


The criminal code also prohibits, among other acts, the suppression or falsification of legal documents or evidence relevant to the international relations of Switzerland (art. 267, imprisonment of no less than a year) and attacks against the independence of Switzerland and incitement of a war against Switzerland (art. 266, up to life imprisonment).

The Swiss military criminal code contains additional prohibitions under the general title of "treason", which also apply to civilians, or which in times of war civilians are also (or may by executive decision be made) subject to. These include espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 or transmission of secrets to a foreign power (art. 86); sabotage
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

 (art. 86a); "military treason", i.e., the disruption of activities of military significance (art. 87); acting as a franc-tireur (art. 88); disruption of military action by disseminating untrue information (art. 89); military service against Switzerland by Swiss nationals (art. 90); or giving aid to the enemy (art. 91). The penalties for these crimes vary, but include life imprisonment in some cases.

Turkey


Treason per se is not defined in the Turkish Penal Code. However, the law defines crimes which are traditionally included in the scope of treason, such as cooperating with the enemy during wartime. Treason is punishable by imprisonment up to life.

United Kingdom


The British law of treason is entirely statutory and has been so since the Treason Act 1351
Treason Act 1351
The Treason Act 1351 is an Act of the Parliament of England which codified and curtailed the common law offence of treason. No new offences were created by the statute. It is one of the earliest English statutes still in force, although it has been very significantly amended. It was extended to...

 (25 Edw. 3 St. 5 c. 2). The Act is written in Norman French
Anglo-Norman language
Anglo-Norman is the name traditionally given to the kind of Old Norman used in England and to some extent elsewhere in the British Isles during the Anglo-Norman period....

, but is more commonly cited in its English translation.

The Treason Act 1351 has since been amended several times, and currently provides for four categories of treasonable offences, namely:

  • "when a man doth compass or imagine the death of our lord the King, or of our lady his Queen or of their eldest son and heir";
  • "if a man do violate the King’s companion, or the King’s eldest daughter unmarried, or the wife of the King’s eldest son and heir";
  • "if a man do levy war against our lord the King in his realm, or be adherent to the King’s enemies in his realm, giving to them aid and comfort in the realm, or elsewhere"; and
  • "if a man slea the chancellor
    Lord Chancellor
    The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

    , treasurer, or the King’s justices of the one bench or the other, justices in eyre, or justices of assise, and all other justices assigned to hear and determine, being in their places, doing their offices".



Another Act, the Treason Act 1702
Treason Act 1702
The Treason Act 1702 is an Act of the Parliament of England, passed to enforce the line of succession to the English throne, previously established by the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Act of Settlement 1701....

 (1 Anne stat. 2 c. 21), provides for a fifth category of treason, namely:

  • "if any person or persons ... shall endeavour to deprive or hinder any person who shall be the next in succession to the crown ... from succeeding after the decease of her Majesty (whom God long preserve) to the imperial crown of this realm and the dominions and territories thereunto belonging".



By virtue of the Treason Act 1708
Treason Act 1708
The Treason Act 1708 is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which harmonised the law of high treason between the former kingdoms of England and Scotland following their union as Great Britain in 1707. It came into effect on 1 July 1709. Some of it is still in force today...

, the law of treason in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 is the same as the law in England, save that in Scotland the slaying of the Lords of Session
Senator of the College of Justice
The Senators of the College of Justice are judges of the College of Justice, a set of legal institutions involved in the administration of justice in Scotland. There are three types of Senator: Lords of Session ; Lords Commissioner of Justiciary ; and the Chairman of the Scottish Land Court...

 and Lords of Justiciary
Senator of the College of Justice
The Senators of the College of Justice are judges of the College of Justice, a set of legal institutions involved in the administration of justice in Scotland. There are three types of Senator: Lords of Session ; Lords Commissioner of Justiciary ; and the Chairman of the Scottish Land Court...

 and counterfeiting the Great Seal of Scotland
Great Seal of Scotland
The Great Seal of Scotland allows the monarch to authorise official documents without having to sign each document individually. Wax is melted in a metal mould or matrix and impressed into a wax figure that is attached by cord or ribbon to documents that the monarch wishes to make official...

 remain treason under sections 11 and 12 of the Treason Act 1708 respectively. Treason is a reserved matter
Reserved matters
In the United Kingdom reserved matters and excepted matters are the areas of government policy where Parliament had kept the power to make laws in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales....

 about which the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

 is prohibited from legislating. Two acts of the former Parliament of Ireland
Parliament of Ireland
The Parliament of Ireland was a legislature that existed in Dublin from 1297 until 1800. In its early mediaeval period during the Lordship of Ireland it consisted of either two or three chambers: the House of Commons, elected by a very restricted suffrage, the House of Lords in which the lords...

 passed in 1537
Treason Act (Ireland) 1537
The Treason Act 1537 is an Act of the former Parliament of Ireland which adds several offences to the law of treason in Northern Ireland...

 and 1542
Crown of Ireland Act 1542
The Crown of Ireland Act 1542 is an Act of the Parliament of Ireland , declaring that King Henry VIII of England and his successors would also be Kings of Ireland. Since 1171 the monarch of England had held the title Lord of Ireland...

 create further treasons which apply in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

.

The penalty for treason
Treason Act 1814
The Treason Act 1814 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland which modified the penalty for high treason for male convicts....

 was changed from death to a maximum of imprisonment for life in 1998 under the Crime And Disorder Act. Before 1998, the death penalty was mandatory, subject to the royal prerogative of mercy
Pardon
Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...

. Since the abolition of the death penalty for murder in 1965 an execution for treason was unlikely to be carried out.

Treason laws were used against Irish insurgents before Irish independence
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

. However, IRA
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

 and other republican
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 groups were not prosecuted or executed for treason for levying war against the British government during the Troubles. They, along with loyalist
Ulster loyalism
Ulster loyalism is an ideology that is opposed to a united Ireland. It can mean either support for upholding Northern Ireland's status as a constituent part of the United Kingdom , support for Northern Ireland independence, or support for loyalist paramilitaries...

 groups, were jailed for murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

, violent crimes or terrorist offences. William Joyce
William Joyce
William Joyce , nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw, was an Irish-American fascist politician and Nazi propaganda broadcaster to the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He was hanged for treason by the British as a result of his wartime activities, even though he had renounced his British nationality...

 was the last person to be put to death for treason, in 1946. (On the following day Theodore Schurch
Theodore Schurch
Theodore William John Schurch was an Anglo-Swiss soldier who was executed for treachery following the end of the Second World War. He was the last person to be executed in Britain for an offence other than murder.-Early life:...

 was executed for treachery
Treachery Act 1940
The Treachery Act 1940 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland enacted during World War II to facilitate the prosecution and execution of enemy spies, and suspended after the war and later repealed...

, a similar crime, and was the last man to be executed for a crime other than murder in the UK.)

As to who can commit treason, it depends on the ancient notion of allegiance
Allegiance
An allegiance is a duty of fidelity said to be owed by a subject or a citizen to his/her state or sovereign.-Etymology:From Middle English ligeaunce . The al- prefix was probably added through confusion with another legal term, allegeance, an "allegation"...

. As such, all British nationals (but not other Commonwealth citizen
Commonwealth citizen
A Commonwealth citizen, which replaces the former category of British subject, is generally a person who is a national of any country within the Commonwealth of Nations....

s) owe allegiance to the Queen in right of the United Kingdom wherever they may be, as do Commonwealth citizens and aliens present in the United Kingdom at the time of the treasonable act (except diplomats and foreign invading forces), those who hold a British passport however obtained, and aliens who – having lived in Britain and gone abroad again – have left behind family and belongings.

International influence


The Treason Act 1695
Treason Act 1695
The Treason Act 1695 is an Act of the Parliament of England which laid down rules of evidence and procedure in high treason trials. It was passed by the English Parliament but was extended to cover Scotland in 1708 and Ireland in 1821...

 enacted, among other things, a rule that treason could be proved only in a trial by the evidence of two witnesses to the same offence. Nearly one hundred years later this rule was incorporated into the U.S. Constitution, which requires two witnesses to the same overt act. It also provided for a three year time limit on bringing prosecutions for treason (except for assassinating the king), another rule which has been imitated in some common law countries. The Sedition Act 1661 made it treason to imprison, restrain or wound the king. Although this law was abolished in the United Kingdom in 1998, it still continues to apply in some Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 countries.

Federal


To avoid the abuses of the English law (including executions by Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 of those who criticized his repeated marriages), treason was specifically defined in the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

, the only crime so defined. Article III
Article Three of the United States Constitution
Article Three of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. The judicial branch comprises the Supreme Court of the United States and lower courts as created by Congress.-Section 1: Federal courts:...

 Section 3 delineates treason as follows:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder
Attainder
In English criminal law, attainder or attinctura is the metaphorical 'stain' or 'corruption of blood' which arises from being condemned for a serious capital crime . It entails losing not only one's property and hereditary titles, but typically also the right to pass them on to one's heirs...

 of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.


However, Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 has, at times, passed statutes creating related offenses that undermine the government or the national security, such as sedition
Sedition
In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent to lawful authority. Sedition may include any...

 in the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts
Alien and Sedition Acts
The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed in 1798 by the Federalists in the 5th United States Congress in the aftermath of the French Revolution's reign of terror and during an undeclared naval war with France, later known as the Quasi-War. They were signed into law by President John Adams...

, or espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 and sedition
Sedition
In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent to lawful authority. Sedition may include any...

 in the 1917 Espionage Act, which do not require the testimony of two witnesses and have a much broader definition than Article Three treason. For example, some well-known spies have been convicted of espionage rather than treason.

The Constitution does not itself create the offense; it only restricts the definition (the first paragraph), permits Congress to create the offense, and restricts any punishment for treason to only the convicted (the second paragraph). The crime is prohibited by legislation passed by Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

. Therefore the United States Code
United States Code
The Code of Laws of the United States of America is a compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal laws of the United States...

 at states "whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States." The requirement of testimony of two witnesses was inherited from the British Treason Act 1695
Treason Act 1695
The Treason Act 1695 is an Act of the Parliament of England which laid down rules of evidence and procedure in high treason trials. It was passed by the English Parliament but was extended to cover Scotland in 1708 and Ireland in 1821...

.

One of American history's most notorious traitors is Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold V was a general during the American Revolutionary War. He began the war in the Continental Army but later defected to the British Army. While a general on the American side, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, New York, and plotted to surrender it to the British forces...

, whose name is considered synonymous with the definition of traitor due to his collaboration with the British during the War of Independence. However, this occurred before the Constitution was written. Since the Constitution came into effect, there have been fewer than 40 federal prosecutions for treason and even fewer convictions. Several men were convicted of treason in connection with the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion
Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion, or Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States in the 1790s, during the presidency of George Washington. Farmers who sold their corn in the form of whiskey had to pay a new tax which they strongly resented...

 but were pardoned by President George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

. The most famous treason trial, that of Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician...

 in 1807 (See Burr conspiracy
Burr conspiracy
The Burr conspiracy in the beginning of the 19th century was a suspected treasonous cabal of planters, politicians, and army officers led by former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr. According to the accusations against him, Burr’s goal was to create an independent nation in the center of North...

), resulted in acquittal. Politically motivated attempts to convict opponents of the Jeffersonian Embargo Acts
Embargo Act of 1807
The Embargo Act of 1807 and the subsequent Nonintercourse Acts were American laws restricting American ships from engaging in foreign trade between the years of 1807 and 1812. The Acts were diplomatic responses by presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison designed to protect American interests...

 and the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
The Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers. This was one of the most controversial acts of the 1850 compromise and heightened...

 all failed. After the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, no person involved with the Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 was tried for treason, though a number of leading Confederates (including Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

 and Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

) were indicted. Those who had been indicted received a blanket amnesty issued by President Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

 as he left office in 1869.

The Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 saw frequent associations between treason and support for (or insufficient hostility toward) Communist-backed causes. The most memorable of these came from Senator Joseph McCarthy
Joseph McCarthy
Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957...

, who accused the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman administrations of "twenty years of treason." As chosen chair of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, McCarthy also investigated various government agencies for Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 spy rings; however, he acted as a political fact-finder rather than a criminal prosecutor. The Cold War period saw few prosecutions for treason. On October 11, 2006, a federal grand jury issued the first indictment for treason against the United States since 1952, charging Adam Yahiye Gadahn
Adam Yahiye Gadahn
Adam Yahiye Gadahn is an American who is a senior operative, cultural interpreter, spokesman and media advisor for the Sunni islamist group Al-Qaeda. Since 2004, he appeared in a number of videos produced by Al-Qaeda as "Azzam the American"...

 for videos in which he appeared as a spokesman for al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 and threatened attacks on American soil.

State


Most states have provisions in their constitutions or statutes similar to those in the U.S. Constitution. The Extradition Clause
Extradition Clause
The Extradition clause or Interstate rendition clause of the United States Constitution refers to a provision in Article IV, Section 2, Clause 2, provides for the extradition of a criminal back to the state where he or she has committed a crime.-Text:...

 specifically defines treason as an extraditable offense. There have been only two documented prosecutions for treason on the state level, that of Thomas Dorr for treason against the state of Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

 for his part in the Dorr Rebellion
Dorr Rebellion
The Dorr Rebellion was a short-lived armed insurrection in the U.S. state of Rhode Island led by Thomas Wilson Dorr, who was agitating for changes to the state's electoral system.- Precursors :...

, and that of John Brown
John Brown (abolitionist)
John Brown was an American revolutionary abolitionist, who in the 1850s advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to abolish slavery in the United States. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre during which five men were killed, in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas, and made his name in the...

 for treason against the state of Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 for his part in the raid on Harpers Ferry
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was an attempt by white abolitionist John Brown to start an armed slave revolt by seizing a United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry in Virginia in 1859...

. In 1859, he and a few of his sons infiltrated Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Harpers Ferry is a historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States. In many books the town is called "Harper's Ferry" with an apostrophe....

—a military base in Virginia—in an attempt to steal the weapons that were kept there. His goal was to give these weapons to slaves, and lead them in an armed rebellion, but his attempt was unsuccessful. His sons were killed in the ensuing battle, and he was captured, and then tried, and convicted, for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. He was sentenced to death by hanging
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

, which was performed on December 2, 1859.

Muslim countries


Early in Islamic history, the only form of treason was seen as the attempt to overthrow a just government or waging war against the State. According to Arab tradition, the prescribed punishment ranged from imprisonment to the severing of limbs and the death penalty depending on the severity of the crime. However, even in cases of treason the repentance of a person would have to be taken into account.

Currently, the consensus among major Islamic schools is that apostacy
Apostasy in Islam
Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined in Islam as the rejection in word or deed of one's former religion by a person who was previously a follower of Islam...

 (leaving Islam) is considered treason and that the penalty is death; this is supported not in the Quran but in the Hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

. This confusion between apostasy and treason almost certainly had its roots in the Ridda Wars
Ridda wars
The Ridda wars , also known as the Wars of Apostasy, were a series of military campaigns against the rebellion of several Arabian tribes launched by the Caliph Abu Bakr during 632 and 633 AD, after prophet Muhammad died....

, in which an army of rebel traitors led by the self-proclaimed prophet Musaylima attempted to destroy the caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 of Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was a senior companion and the father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He ruled over the Rashidun Caliphate from 632-634 CE when he became the first Muslim Caliph following Muhammad's death...

.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Iranian Cleric Sheikh Fazlollah Noori
Sheikh Fazlollah Noori
Sheikh Fazlollah Noori was a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric in Iran during the late 19th and early 20th century who fought against the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and was executed for treason as a result...

 opposed the Iranian Constitutional Revolution
Iranian Constitutional Revolution
The Persian Constitutional Revolution or Iranian Constitutional Revolution took place between 1905 and 1907...

 by inciting insurrection against them through issuing Fatwahs and publishing pamphlets arguing democracy will bring vice to the country. The new government executed him for treason in 1909.

In Malaysia, it is treason to commit offences against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
Yang di-Pertuan Agong
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the head of state of Malaysia. The office was established in 1957 when the Federation of Malaya gained independence....

’s person, waging, attempting to wage war or abetting the waging of war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
Yang di-Pertuan Agong
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the head of state of Malaysia. The office was established in 1957 when the Federation of Malaya gained independence....

, a Ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri
Yang di-Pertua Negeri
The Yang di-Pertua Negeri is the official title of the ceremonial heads of state of the Malaysian states without hereditary rulers, namely Penang, Malacca, Sabah and Sarawak...

. All these offences are punishable by hanging, which derives from the English treason acts (a former British colony, Malaysia's legal system is based on English common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

).

Algeria


In Algeria, treason is defined as the following:
  • attempts to change the regime or actions aimed at incitement
  • destruction of territory, sabotage to public and economic utilities
  • participation in armed bands or in insurrectionary movements

Bahrain


In Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

, plotting to topple the regime, collaborating with a foreign hostile country and threatening the life of the Emir are defined as treason and punishable by death. The State Security Law of 1974
State Security Law of 1974
Following Bahrain’s independence from the British in 1971, the government of Bahrain embarked on an extended period of political suppression under a 1974 State Security Law shortly after the adoption of the country’s first formal Constitution in 1973...

 was used to crush dissent that could be seen as treasonous, which was criticised for permitting severe human rights violations in accordance with Article One:


"If there is serious evidence that a person has perpetrated acts, delivered statements, exercised activities, or has been involved in contacts inside or outside the country, which are of a nature considered to be in violation of the internal or external security of the country, the religious and national interests of the State, its social or economic system; or considered to be an act of sedition that affects or can possibly affect the existing relations between the people and Government, between the various institutions of the State, between the classes of the people, or between those who work in corporations propagating subversive propaganda or disseminating atheistic principles; the Minister of Interior may order the arrest of that person, committing him to one of Bahrain's prisons, searching him, his residence and the place of his work, and may take any measure which he deems necessary for gathering evidence and completing investigations.


"The period of detention may not exceed three years. Searches may only be made and the measures provided for in the first paragraph may only be taken upon judicial writ."

Iran


In Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 every act of disloyalty is considered high treason, even expressing one's mind against the Supreme Leader of Iran
Supreme Leader of Iran
The Supreme Leader of Iran is the highest ranking political and religious authority in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The post was established by the constitution in accordance with the concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists...

. Acting against the military forces or police forces is also treason because they are arguably loyal to the supreme leader. Most judges are careful with the death sentence if the crime is considered a disloyalty to the supreme leader because every sentence lower than death sentence is not acceptable.

After a presidential election in which people started to oppose the government and country leaders, courts have been a lot more sensitive about the crime of treason in order to keep better control of the situation.

Palestinian territories


In the areas controlled by the Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

, it is treason to give assistance to Israeli troops without the authorization of the Palestinian Authority or to sell land to Jews (irrespective of nationality) and also non-Jewish Israeli citizens under the Palestinian Land Laws
Palestinian Land Laws
Palestinian land laws are laws which relate to ownership of land under the Palestinian Authority . These laws prohibit Palestinians from selling Palestinian territory lands to "any man or judicial body [corporation] of Israeli citizenship living in Israel or acting on its behalf." These land laws...

, as part of the PA's general policy of discouraging the expansion of Israeli settlement
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

s. Both crimes are capital offences subject to the death penalty, although the former provision has not often been enforced since the beginning of effective security cooperation between the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

, Israel Police
Israel Police
The Israel Police is the civilian police force of Israel. As with most other police forces in the world, its duties include crime fighting, traffic control, maintaining public safety, and counter-terrorism...

, and Palestinian National Security Forces since the mid-2000s under the leadership of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
Salam Fayyad
Salam Fayyad is a Palestinian politician and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority of the Palestinian National Authority. His first appointment, on 15 June 2007, which was justified by President Mahmoud Abbas on the basis of "national emergency", has not been confirmed by the...

. Likewise, in the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

 under the Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 led government, any sort of cooperation or assistance to Israeli forces during military actions is also punishable by death.

Related offences


There are a number of other crimes against the state short of treason:
  • Apostasy in Islam
    Apostasy in Islam
    Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined in Islam as the rejection in word or deed of one's former religion by a person who was previously a follower of Islam...

     is currently considered treason in Islamic belief, but this was not historically the case.
  • Compounding treason
    Compounding treason
    Compounding treason is an offence under the common law of England. It is committed by anyone who agrees for consideration to abstain from prosecuting the offender who has committed treason.It is still an offence in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland...

     is dropping a prosecution for treason in exchange for money or money's worth.
  • Defection
    Defection
    In politics, a defector is a person who gives up allegiance to one state or political entity in exchange for allegiance to another. More broadly, it involves abandoning a person, cause or doctrine to whom or to which one is bound by some tie, as of allegiance or duty.This term is also applied,...

    , or leaving the country, is regarded in some communist countries (especially during the Cold War
    Cold War
    The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

    ) as disloyal to the state.
  • Espionage
    Espionage
    Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

     or spying.
  • Lèse majesté
    Lèse majesté
    Lese-majesty is the crime of violating majesty, an offence against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state.This behavior was first classified as a criminal offence against the dignity of the Roman republic in Ancient Rome...

     is insulting a head of state
    Head of State
    A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

     and is a crime in some countries.
  • Misprision of treason
    Misprision of treason
    Misprision of treason is an offence found in many common law jurisdictions around the world, having been inherited from English law. It is committed by someone who knows a treason is being or is about to be committed but does not report it to a proper authority...

     is a crime consisting of the concealment of treason.
  • Sedition
    Sedition
    In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent to lawful authority. Sedition may include any...

     is inciting civil unrest or insurrection, or undermining the government.
  • Treachery
    Treachery
    Treachery is a statutory offence in Australia. There was also an unrelated statutory offence bearing that name in the United Kingdom, but it has been abolished. Both of these offences were derived from or inspired by the related offence of treason. The name treachery was chosen because it is a...

    , the name of a number of derivative offences.
  • Treason felony, a British offence tantamount to treason.

Further reading

  • Elaine Shannon and Ann Blackman, The Spy Next Door : The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, The Most Damaging FBI Agent in US History, Little, Brown and Company, 2002, ISBN 0-316-71821-1
  • Ben-Yehuda, Nachman, "Betrayals and Treason. Violations of trust and Loyalty." Westview Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8133-9776-6
  • Ó Longaigh, Seosamh, "Emergency Law in Independent Ireland, 1922–1948", Four Courts Press, Dublin 2006 ISBN 1-85182-922-9

External links