New York Accords: The New York Accords, also known as the Hero-Villain Accords in some areas, is a series of agreements and international laws passed as a result of negotiations following the destruction of New York City in 1981. It governs most interactions between registered heroes and villains, and is seen as the largest recent historical turning point in society's treatment and expectations of superhuman beings.
The negotiations that formed the Accords began in 1981, in the aftermath of the New York Disaster. With dozens of superhumans and millions of innocent bystanders killed in a series of brutal explosions that destroyed one of the largest cities in the United States and nearly set off a global superhuman war, a number of important figures in both the superheroic and supervillainous communities began to quietly approach talks with one another, designed to prevent another such disaster from taking place. American supers led the discussions, many of them having lost friends and family in the disaster, but other powers quickly followed suit; none wanted to see New York happen again on their own soil.
The negotiations were complex, and nearly foundered more than once. For them to be successful, governments had to be brought on board, in order to give the Accords the force of law. Many heroes and villains considered the negotiations to be tantamount to compromising the very things that made them what they were, and had to be persuaded that the Accords could function. The process took over two years to codify, and continues to evolve and shift to the present day.
The United States were the first nation to sign on to the Accords, in late 1983. Canada, France, Germany, and Brazil followed suit the same year, and more countries continued to sign up as the years went on. By the end of 1990, there were 148 signatory nations, with most holdouts being relatively small, with only one or two superhumans of their own. A notable holdout for many years was Russia, which refused to sign the Accords until 1996, when they finally were persuaded of the value after a near-disaster involving nuclear missiles and a mad scientist.
In the present day, there are 183 member nations signed on to the New York Accords, although many of them have regional variations on the standard international rules. The Accords remain contested by a number of superhumans, with the most famous opposition coming from the terrorist group known as the Antiheroes, but remain essentially stable to the present day.
The exact laws that govern the Accords cover four hundred pages of closely typed legal text, but the general gist of them are known by most people, and are required study by attendees at any registered Academy. In general, they are designed to govern the rules by which heroes and villains are able to interact, and are designed to limit collateral damage and death resulting from hero-villain confrontations, while increasing the stability of both heroes and villains who choose to follow the Accords. The Accords typically fall into three categories of laws:
1) Exceptions. These entries usually cover villains, but can also protect heroes. They are designed to create situations in which the normal laws of society do not bind heroes and villains. For example, regardless of the illegality of their actions, no villainous Minion can be held for over twenty-four hours, provided that they were within the strictures of the Accords at the time of their apprehension. Similarly, villainous Masterminds are very rarely held for over a month. On the flip side, trespassing laws cannot apply to heroes who enter a place of business owned by a registered villain - although they are liable for damages, provided that no evil scheme is currently in progress. The rules for exceptions are extremely complex, usually taking up several pages of clauses and counter-clauses, and most court rulings involving the Accords are based around determining whether or not a given exclusion applies.
2) Protections. The opposite of the above, protections apply increased penalties over the usual legal amounts for heroes or villains who break specific rules of the Accords. For example, if a villain or a hero kill another one, the standard prison sentence for murder is doubled. There are exceptions to this - generally, a properly built deathtrap with a reasonable chance of escape is allowed - but most villains prefer not to take chances, designing complicated devices to slow down or incapacitate their opponents without killing them. Similarly, bringing the family or friends of a hero or villain into the line of fire is against the rules, unless said family or friends are also registered heroes or villains. Kidnapping has strict limits, and injury can result in several years in jail. Actually killing a relative is an automatic life sentence without parole.
3) Restrictions. The smallest field, restrictions cover devices and plots that simply cannot be used, because they are so dangerous that even villains don't generally want to see them around. For example, no nuclear device with a detonation power above 5 megatons may be used as part of a villainous plot, due to the problematic aftereffects of radiation. There are longstanding restrictions on attempts at Time Travel, although no scientist (not even those who use Pseudotech) consider it a possibility, because of the dangers that could result. A longstanding argument has been over the use of realtiy-altering devices; to date, these remain legal.
While national courts handle coverage of superhuman violations, most enforcement is done by the Superhuman Enforcement Agency, an international organization founded in order to police the Accords.
The results of the Accords have been generally positive from the point of view of limiting damage caused by superhumans, less so from the point of view of reducing the frequency of such events. Studies have shown that, since 1983, hero deaths due to confrontations have decreased by 41%, villain deaths have decreased 38%, and civilian deaths have decreased by 72%. Similarly, collateral damage (defined as damages to property not owned by one of the participants in a confrontation) has dropped by 28%. All of these figures do not include the New York Disaster, which is generally considered to throw off the curve.
On the other hand, the percentage of civilians who have been involved in a confrontation has increased dramatically, from a former ration of 1:4,200 up to a ration of 1:1,600. The total number of confrontations taking place in a given year have increased by 31%, primarily due to the ease with which villains are released both allowing them freedom sooner and causing them to be less careful.
There are several widespread criticisms of the Accords. The simplest is that they represent a surrender. Many heroes feel that allowing villains to get away with crimes only emboldens them, and that it is only a matter of time before a large number of villains start to use the Accords as a cover for increasingly dangerous activity. At the same time, many villains believe that following any rules, even the Accords, is beneath the dignity of a supervillain, and do so only reluctantly (or not at all).
Other arguments against the Accords state that they are, rather than a stabilizing factor as intended, a profoundly destabilizing one. While direct deaths and damage are down, they present evidence suggesting that the indirect effects of the increased number of confrontations costs billions of dollars every year, and indirectly leads to poverty and even death for those who are affected. These studies are difficult to prove either way, as they require a large amount of correlational data.