Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea Drafting Team Update

Press Release

Wednesday 25  August 2021

London. UK. The Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea, together with its Annexes, is currently in the final stages of drafting for publication. The Declaration is a soft-law instrument that highlights the applicable rules and standards to be maintained in defence of fundamental human rights at sea. It reflects existing law and, importantly, does not attempt to generate any new legal obligations for States. It is intended, therefore, as a guide to enhance compliance with the law as it stands deliberately focusing on practical means of applying human rights standards throughout the maritime environment.

A vital Annex to the Declaration will be a set of Guidelines for Promoting Compliance with Human Rights at Sea.  These will provide clear guidance on conduct that is either necessary, according to existing rules of international law, or desirable good practice, that will promote a culture of compliance with human rights at sea.

The Guidelines are currently being reviewed by a collective team of partners and associates from the leading law firms of Reed Smith LLP, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, HFW LLP and DLA Piper LLP.  These firms are supporting the project and have kindly provided their commercial expertise on a pro bono basis.

Following the Declaration’s publication, Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) will be working to obtain State level endorsement. It is important that States, be they Port States, Coastal States or Flag States, follow the Guidelines to ensure their compliance with their existing human rights obligations.  Their respective obligations apply within their ports and areas of maritime jurisdiction, and on board their sea-going vessels wherever in the world they happen to be, including on the High Seas.

Professor of International Law at the University of Milano, Bicocca, a member of the core drafting team, Irini Papanicolopoulou commented:

“People who are at sea face multiple threats and the GDHRAS is a necessary instrument to ensure protection for them. Its content is not new by itself, since it contains the obligations that States have already accepted and reiterated in a number of occasions. What is new is that it brings all these duties together and shows how far protection can go.”
Geneva Declaration website: 



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