Problems and Challenges of the echr’s Extraterritorial Application to Law-Enforcement Operations at Sea

In: International Community Law Review
Marta Szuniewicz Department of Law of the Sea and Maritime Security, Institute of National Security, Faculty of Command and Maritime Operations, Naval Academy Gdynia Poland

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Recently the European Court of Human Rights has been challenged with questions concerning the scope of the State’s responsibility for violations of human rights that occurred on international waters. The complaints concern the international fight on illicit drug trafficking, piracy and illegal immigration. The analysed case law provides that occurrences on international waters constitute cases of extraterritorial jurisdiction and may engage responsibility of the State under the echr in the events that take place on board a vessel flying its flag (jurisdiction de iure) and in case of occurrences that happen on board foreign vessels, if the State exercises an effective control over a ship or its crew (jurisdiction de facto). Unfortunately, the Court’s findings prove difficult to follow in a few points as the judges applied the Strasboaurg standard too strictly, irrespective of the practical challenges of maritime law-enforcement operations and existing institutions of the law of the sea.

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