Responsibility for Human Rights Violations Arising from the Use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel against Piracy. Re-Emphasizing the Primary Role and Obligations of Flag States

Jessica N.M. Schechinger

Maritime piracy is an ancient problem that harms, either directly or indirectly, many states as well as non-state actors. Although the law on piracy seems in principle adequately equipped to deal with the problem, states have not been able to … Read more


Shared Responsibility Aspects of the Dispute Settlement Procedures in the Law of the Sea Convention

Ilias Plakokefalos

The concept of shared responsibility seeks to capture the situation where a multiplicity of actors contribute towards a single harmful outcome. This paper examines the procedural aspects of shared responsibility as they appear in the United Nations Convention on the … Read more


18 and 19 April 2013

SHARES Seminar: Practice of Shared Responsibility in International Law of the Sea and International Environmental Law

This SHARES Seminar will discuss papers reviewing the practice of shared responsibility in the field of international law of the sea and international environmental law. (more…)


20 January 2014

Protecting the Arctic area – a responsibility of many?

On 16 December 2013, the fourth SHARES Debate entitled Protecting the Arctic area – a responsibility of the Netherlands? was held in Amsterdam. The panel consisted of three speakers: Louwrens Hacquebord, René Lefeber, and Daniel Simons. André Nollkaemper acted as moderator. This blog post highlights the main parts of the debate.

Background – changes and threats

Through the melting of the ice of the Arctic, as a consequence of global warming, new economic opportunities for states and businesses arise. Areas that until recently were covered in ice are now opening up, creating, for example, permanent navigational routes between Asia and Europe, and enabling the exploitation of oil and gas resources that had been previously located in inaccessible areas. The Netherlands, as well as companies incorporated in the Netherlands, are among the many actors that want to capitalise on these new opportunities. The increase of economic activities can pose significant risks to the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic. This raises a fundamental question: who is responsible for the management, use and protection of the Arctic area? In this complex situation, question arise over the role and responsibility of the Netherlands and other actors, including Dutch companies such as Van Oord, Boskalis and Shell. (more…)

30 May 2013

State Responsibility and Flag State Duties – Commentary

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

Telesetsky’s highly interesting post highlights the problem of flag state responsibility in the law of the sea. The post identifies two major issues: Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and structurally unsafe vessels. Both these issues have been hard to resolve and difficult to regulate, at least from a flag state perspective. This comment seeks to further the debate by raising two questions regarding the role of the flag state in terms of its international responsibility. (more…)

30 May 2013

State Responsibility and Flag State Duties

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

Sovereign nations have the right to extend their nationality to non-state actors who agree to adhere to national laws. But is there any broader international state responsibility associated with the granting of flag state status to known problematic non-state actors? Take the example of the South Korean flagged F/V Premier. This vessel licensed to the Dongwon company, the parent company of Starkist Tuna, was recently accused by Liberia of illegal fishing in the coastal waters of Liberia. In April, the Dongwon company settled with the government of Liberia for somewhere between one million and two million dollars. An interesting question has arisen over whether the government of Korea now has the obligation to list the F/V Premier as an Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing vessel which would mean that the vessel would not be permitted to operate in regional fishery management areas such as those regulated by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. (more…)

29 May 2013

Is there a major role for the law of responsibility in international fisheries management? – Commentary (2)

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

Takei asks whether there is a role for responsibility in international fisheries management, and he proceeds to reply -correctly so- in the affirmative. The blog eloquently presents all possible scenarios, in terms of the law of fisheries, wherein issues of state responsibility might arise. Therefore the purpose of this comment will be to highlight some questions from the viewpoint of the law of responsibility. Two intertwined points merit closer scrutiny. The first relates to the primary rules and the second to the application of the rules on responsibility. (more…)

29 May 2013

Is there a major role for the law of responsibility in international fisheries management? – Commentary (1)

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

Yoshinobu Takei’s interesting post charts recent developments in international fisheries law that have attempted to respond to the ongoing ‘tragedy of the commons’ that flows from the dominance of the Grotian vision of the high seas as a domain of freedom (to fish, and to enjoy the other accepted high seas freedoms). Concerted attention from the 1970s onwards has resulted in an extensive body of international fisheries law, built upon the foundations provided by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). UNCLOS sought to deal with the tragedy of the commons primarily by arrogating to coastal states large swathes of ocean space within the EEZ. That left the problem of shared, straddling, migratory, and high seas fisheries. (more…)

29 May 2013

Is there a major role for the law of responsibility in international fisheries management?

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

First of all, I wish to thank Opinio Juris and SHARES for inviting me to participate in this highly interesting symposium. In my post, I will analyze the relevance of the law of responsibility in a fisheries context, describe some of the recent developments in this field and highlight some points for discussion.

On 9 May 2013, a Taiwanese fishing boat was shot by a Philippine government vessel and the incident resulted in the death of a crew member onboard the fishing boat as well as serious damage to the boat. The Taiwanese government demanded the Philippine government “to respond to four demands: a formal apology; compensation; an expeditious investigation followed by the severe punishment of the perpetrators, and the speedy arrangement of negotiations on fishery matters” (Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs), although the Philippine government claimed that their law enforcement was obstructed by the attempted attack by the boat in question and they were therefore forced to open fire. This sad incident again testifies that state responsibility plays an important role in a fisheries context. (more…)

28 May 2013

Search and Rescue Operations at Sea: Who is in Charge? Who is Responsible? – Commentary

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

Seline Trevisanut provides a very helpful analysis of some of the significant gaps in the system (if we can call it that) of responsibility in international law for the welfare of those who find themselves in distress at sea. Regrettably, there has been an increase in tragic maritime incidents involving asylum seekers in recent years, not only in the Mediterranean, but also in other oceans seas including the Indian Ocean where several vessels carrying asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia have foundered, and there has been significant loss of life. The death toll from the 20 vessels that have sunk en route to Australia since 2009 now stands at nearly 900. There is an urgent need to clarify the international legal duties upon states to ensure that such tragedies are avoided, and that when sinkings do occur that search and rescue authorities respond promptly and effectively. (more…)

28 May 2013

Search and Rescue Operations at Sea: Who is in Charge? Who is Responsible?

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

On Sunday, 8 May 2011, the British newspaper The Guardian reported the story of a boat carrying 72 persons, among them asylum seekers, women and children, which left Tripoli (Libya) for the Italian island of Lampedusa at the end of March 2011 (for comments, see here and here). After 16 days at sea, the boat was washed up on the Libyan shore with only 11 survivors. During the 16 days route, survivors told that they used their satellite phone, which later ran out of battery, to call an Eritrean priest in Rome for help (see Resolution 1872 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe). The priest alerted the Italian Maritime Regional Coordination Centre, which located the migrants’ vessel and sent out many calls to the ships in the area. (more…)

27 May 2013

Whaling wars, non-state actors and international responsibility

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

Whaling disputes are multifaceted. While Australia and Japan are confronting each other in The Hague (see the post by Natalie Klein), Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), an American NGO and the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), a Japanese research institution fight strenuously in court and at sea. Following the moratorium on commercial whaling decided by the International Whaling Commission in 1984, Japan has licensed ICR to conduct research projects involving the killing of numerous whales. ICR activities, however, are increasingly physically hampered by SSCS vessels, which harass ICR vessels on the high seas. As already noted on Opinio Juris, in February the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court and granted ICR a preliminary injunction against SSCS, defining the latter as ‘pirates’. And while ICR is threatening contempt action against them, SSCS for their part have initiated proceedings in front of a Dutch judge for violation of environmental laws by ICR. (more…)

27 May 2013

What Responsibility over Iconic Marine Living Resources? – Commentary

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

Natalie Klein has drawn attention to a longstanding weakness in those fields of international law, including international environmental law, devoted to serve collective interests, in matching obligations with rules of responsibility for their breach. The law of state responsibility applies in a fairly straightforward way to situations where there is an obligation under a treaty to protect the environment, that is violated by a treaty party, with clear impacts upon another party. However, as Klein points out, when it comes to iconic whale and shark (and indeed other) species found on the high seas the responsibility situation may be far from straightforward, and this can frustrate efforts to enforce conservation rules. (more…)

27 May 2013

What Responsibility over Iconic Marine Living Resources?

Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility, cross-posted on Opinio Juris

One of the most successful environmental campaigns was captured by the slogan of ‘Save the Whales’. It was apparently when the Australian Prime Minister’s daughter returned home from school sporting a Save the Whales badge that the initial impetus was provided for Australia to shift from pro-whaling nation to anti-whaling. Over the decades, we have seen a fundamental change in the legal regulation of whaling: from minimal regulation and maximum exploitation to a zero-catch quota (colloquially known as the moratorium) on commercial whaling under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). There has been resistance to this moratorium – from those states that never agreed to the imposition of a moratorium and those states that seem to thwart the moratorium by conducting commercial whaling under the guise of legally permissible scientific whaling, as Australia asserts Japan is doing. If we are to maintain legal standards in the conduct of whaling then how can states be held responsible? (more…)

19 April 2013

The Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission Submits a Request for an Advisory Opinion to ITLOS

Photo by Michael Sarver Used under Creative Commons By Attribution license Source:

Fishing boats at Cape Coast, Ghana, West Africa.
Photo by Michael Sarver
Used under Creative Commons By Attribution license

On 28 March 2013 the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC), an intergovernmental fisheries management organisation, submitted to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) a request for an Advisory Opinion (see here). The SRFC comprises of seven states (Cape Verde, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Gambia) and it covers an area that corresponds to theses states’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). The SRFC took this decision at its 14th Extraordinary Session, where it adopted a Resolution under article 22 of the Convention on the Determination of the Minimal Conditions for Access and Exploitation of Marine Resources Within the Maritime Areas under Jurisdiction of the Member States of the SRFC. (more…)

5 January 2013

Adjudicating Somali Piracy Cases – German Courts in a Double Bind

Cross-posted on the CJICL blog

On 19 October 2012, a court of first instance in Hamburg sentenced ten Somalis to prison in what was the first piracy case before German courts in over four hundred years (the decision has not yet been released but for a comprehensive press release of the court in German see: here). The acts of piracy took place on 5 April 2010 when the Somalis entered the German container ship “Taipan”, which was on its way from Haifa to Mombasa, with a distance of about 530 nautical miles from the Horn of Africa. The heavily armed Somalis intended to take the crew of the Taipan hostage and to hold them for ransom, but the crew fled into a hidden safe room and cut the ship’s energy supply. Shortly thereafter the Somalis were arrested by the Dutch frigate “Hr. Ms. Tromp”, brought to the Netherlands and handed over to Germany on 10 June 2010. The procedure began on 22 November 2010, and ended with prison sentences ranging from two to seven years for extortionate kidnapping (§ 239 (a) para. 1 of the German Criminal Code) and attacking sea transportation (§ 316 (c) para. 1 no. 1 of the German Criminal Code). (more…)

25 November 2011

The Seabed Disputes Chamber clarified the meaning of joint and several liability (but also raised new questions)

The principle of joint liability in undeveloped in international law. Though some treaties refer to it, and several scholarly articles that have recognized its importance for situations where multiple actors cause injury, the scope and contents of the principle remain uncertain. It is therefore of some importance that the Advisory Opinion of the Seabed Disputes Chamber of ITLOS on Responsibilities and Obligations of States sponsoring persons and entities with respect to activities in the Area (1 February 2011) discussed the principle. In his presentation at the SHARES Seminar on Shared Responsibility in Environmental Law, held at ACIL on 7 November 2011, Judge Treves provided further insight into these, until now somewhat neglected, aspects of the Opinion. (more…)


27 May 2013

Shared Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility

In the next few days, a shared symposium entitled Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility will be held together with Opinio Juris, exploring the intersection between the law of responsibility and the law of the sea.

Blog posts and commentaries of Natalie Klein, Irini Papanicolopulu, Ilias Plakokefalos, Tim Stephens, Yoshinobu Takei, Anastasia Telesetsky and Seline Trevisanut will be cross posted on Opinio Juris and our SHARES website.

For more information on the symposium see here. 

Source: Opinio Juris | Symposium on the Law of the Sea and the Law of Responsibility

28 January 2013

US identifies 10 countries that conducted fishing in contravention of a regional fishery management agreement

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has submitted a Congressionally mandated report identifying ten nations whose fishing vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2011 or 2012. The 10 states are Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Italy, Mexico, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Tanzania, and Venezuela. All ten nations identified in this year’s report had vessels that did not comply in 2011 and/or 2012 with conservation and management measures required under a regional fishery management organisation to which the US is a party. The report is part of the efforts of the United States to ensure that the US fishing industry is not undermined by unsustainable or illegal activities. The US will soon start consultations with each of the 10 nations to encourage them to take action to address IUU fishing and by-catch by their fishermen.

Source: Merco Press | US NOAA identifies 10 countries that conducted IUU fishing in 2011-12

19 December 2012

Protocol for the Protection of the Caspian Sea against Pollution from Land-based Sources and Activities adopted

The states parties to the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea (Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan) adopted a Protocol for the Protection of the Caspian Sea against Pollution from Land-based Sources and Activities during the fourth Conference of the Parties (COP 4). According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Protocol will further enhance the co-operation on environmental matters in the region.

Source: UN News Centre | UN environment agency welcomes renewed commitment to protecting Caspian Sea

16 August 2012

Papua New Guinea first state to approve commercial deep sea mining

The Government of Papua New Guinea has given the Canadian firm ‘Nautilus Minerals’ a 20-year licence to begin their so-called ‘Solwara 1’ project. This is the first commercial deep seabed mining project in the world, aiming to extract gold and copper from the seafloor beneath the Bismarck Sea. Locals and environmental activists have objected in view of the environmental impacts.

Source: The Guardian | Papua New Guinea's seabed to be mined for gold and copper

15 June 2012

EU agrees to ban fishing discards

On 13 June 2012, the fisheries ministers of the European Union (EU) agreed to ban the dumping of healthy and edible fish catches back into the sea, which is done by fishermen to remain within the EU quotas and to maximise profits. However, the starting dates of phasing in the ban for different species are subject to further negotiations.

Environmental campaigners urged European politicians to stop this wasteful practice. The agreed reforms, changing the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to eliminate the discards, are seen as an important step towards a sustainable fisheries policy. However, experts fear that these measures will come too late for certain fish stocks.

Source: The Guardian | Fishing discards practice thrown overboard by EU
Source: The Guardian | Will the fishing discard deal be enough to save fish stocks?

4 April 2012

Non-renewal EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement due to the question of Western Sahara

On 14 December 2011 the European Parliament decided not to renew the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Morocco signed in 2005. This agreement granted licenses to EU vessels to fish in Morocco’s Atlantic waters, without distinguishing between the waters of Morocco and those of Western Sahara.  Western Sahara is a territory annexed by Morocco, that continues to strive for self-determination. A 2002 legal opinion of UN Legal Advisor Hans Corell expressed that exploitation of the territory’s resources could only be considered legal if the Sahrawi population were consulted and benefited.

The vote in Parliament was largely based on a report by MEP Carl Haglund, who raised the question of the legality of an agreement including fishing rights off the coast of Western Sahara and the question of the benefit to the Sahrawi people.

Source: Think Africa Press | Unexpected Victory for Western Sahara Campaigners at the European Parliament
Source: Presseurop | Western Sahara sinks EU-Morocco accord

17 January 2012

Iceland minister calls for joint responsibility of coastal States for ensuring sustainable fishery

In a column on, the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture of Iceland Steingrímur J. Sigfússon called for cooperative efforts of Iceland, the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands regarding the upcoming negotiations of an agreement on the regulation of mackerel fisheries in the North-East Atlantic. Sigfússon insisted that the ‘coastal states carry a joint responsibility for preventing further overfishing from the mackerel stock and ensuring sustainable fishery’ and ‘they must all contribute to reaching an agreement.


28 November 2011

Tuna fished ‘illegally’ during Libya conflict

Evidence has emerged of unregulated tuna fishing in Libyan waters during this year’s conflict. EU boats are implicated in the fishing, which the European Commission believes could be judged illegal. The issue led to heated discussion at the recent Istanbul meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), where it was decided that research will be carried out into the events.

Source: BBC News – Tuna fished ‘illegally’ during Libya conflict