The first annual European and International Human Rights at Sea course – the EHRAS project, led by Professor Irini Papanicolopulu at the University of Milano-Bicocca, and co-funded by the EU under the Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Actions scheme, has been completed paving the way for a comprehensive academic course to be held annually in Italy.

The EHRAS course is aimed at further raising awareness among students, scholars, government officials, legal practitioners, civil servants, civil society actors, armed forces, and the media on the existing legal and political instruments to enhance human rights protection at sea within the European Union. 

The course addressed the future generations of lawyers, both at the national and European level, with a view to educating them on the means to enforce human rights protection at sea.

The project consisted of three key activities: 

1. To be the first University course in Europe dedicated to human rights at sea, delivered by leading scholars and practitioners with significant experience on the emerging topic;

2. To deliver a seminar series principally addressed at Italian stakeholders working on human rights at sea; 

3. To establish an open conference gathering academics and practitioners from around the world, that provides a turning point for scholarship on human rights at sea and which ultimately is meant to trigger wider debate among national and European lawmakers.

The 12 topics addressed covered: 

  • Human Rights enforcement at sea: legal framework and its deficiencies
  • Issues of jurisdiction at sea
  • The law of the sea and the protection of human rights
  • EU law and the protection of fundamental rights
  • Migration by sea and EU immigration law
  • Personal liberty and fair trial at sea
  • The protection of human rights in the fisheries sector under EU and international law
  • The right to life at sea
  • The maritime dimension of the right to self-determination and independence
  • The human rights of sea workers
  • Slavery, torture, and inhuman and degrading treatment at Sea
  • Civil society activities to challenge abuses and impunity: the work of Human Rights at Sea

“The emerging relevance of human rights application at sea cannot be ignored by scholars, and the EHRAS project aims to fill a significant gap in academic training and research. We hope to trigger interest in the issues in the future generations of lawyers and decision makers, who may address the multiple challenges faced by people at sea.” said Prof. Papanicolopulu.

CEO, David Hammond, a member of the co-ordination committee, commented: "Since 2014, it has been a true pleasure to watch the topic of human rights at sea further expand in international coverage and debate amongst academic, civil society and wider state bodies charged with the protection of human rights throughout the maritime environment. Human Rights at Sea was delighted to have attended and lectured on both the practical application of human rights, and the extensive ongoing challenges faced at sea in their effective application."

Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), the UK-based civil society NGO, continues to develop extensive practical research areas and wide-ranging reference materials at the international level which are available free to download from its website:, with a specific focus on the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea

The course will be run again in 2023.

Download HRAS Presentations

#1: Practical application, legislative development, and international policy influence of human rights at sea

#2: Slavery at Sea: Civil society activities challenging abuses in international supply chains 


Prof. Irini Papanicolopulu

David Hammond Esq.

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