What is Treason

Treason means an act of betrayal done to one’s nation or country that may affect a nation or its citizens. Most of the countries have strict penal laws against to punish those who are convicted of treason. Since time immemorial, treason has been considered as a serious crime that can put a nation into jeopardy.  In earlier days, people found to be conspiring against a government, or a monarchial head were put to death. In some countries, the convicts were tortured to death. A person convicted of treason is termed as traitor. As per the rules, a person can be convicted of treason only when he/she is a citizen of the country.

The word treason first came into being in 1200 when it began to be used against person found guilty of subversive activities. The term was supposedly taken from a French word called traison that means to surrender. A treason activity may be major or minor depending upon the level of threat it poses for a nation. A major treason activity may result in the destabilization of the country, overthrow of an elected government, or serious economic/geo-political consequences for a country. It may also lead to loss of life and property of the nation. Treason laws can convict anyone found directly or indirectly involved in a treason activity. Activities such as spying or divulging of confidential information are also considered an act of treason. 

Different nations have different treason laws. These laws may include various activities under treason. They also carry different degree of punishments against those convicted under treason. In United States, the treason laws are not extensively defined though their European counterparts have well-defined treason laws as they have been borrowed from the laws of the erstwhile monarchial system that prevailed for many centuries in Europe. In America, more number of people has been convicted under sedition laws than treason laws. Sedition laws include a vast array of activities including hate speeches against someone, or a group of people.   

Treason laws are often misused by the government to prosecute those who may be having opposite political views. Anti-war activists are often tried under treason laws. There have been demands to change the laws that try anti-war activists under treason. In many banana republics, ruling parties have used these laws to maintain their political supremacy. Even in countries that have vibrant democracies, these laws are sometimes used for gaining personal advantage.  Many social activist groups have campaigned since long for bringing in reformation in these laws. Ann Coulter, a noted social activist has written a popular book upon the need to reform treason laws.