London.UK. The House of Lords Inquiry on UNCLOS last week heard oral evidence from Anna Petrig, Chair of International Law and Public Law at University of Basel, Douglas Guilfoyle, Associate Professor of Law at University of New South Wales Canberra and Richard Barnes Professor of International Law at The University of Lincoln.
All three experts were asked in amongst other questions whether UNCLOS is still fit for purpose and whether it can respond to contemporary challenges including the most pressing challenge of monitoring compliance and enforcement of human rights law.
Prof. Guilfoyle stressed the strong link between international crime and human rights abuses at sea, including people smuggling, and suggested that the UK government should make effective use of sanctions under the UK human rights sanctions regime. There already exists the ability to use sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations and the government was strongly encouraged to use these provisons by Prof. Guilfoyle.
Prof. Petrig talked about the need to take broader action to ensure that human rights obligations at sea are taken seriously. The reason why there are legal issues still unresolved according to Prof. Petrig is down to the serious sea blindness of international human rights law. ‘Human Rights law, until very recently has suffered from serious sea-blindness’, Prof. Petrig told the committee. She went on to explain that the vast majority of the case law of human rights courts have been made with the dry land context in mind.
Supporting the concept of ‘sea-blindness’ according to Professor Petrig, is the fact that there are hundreds of NGOs dealing with human rights issues on land but there is only one NGO that uniquely and comprehensively addresses with the human rights of people in the maritime context, the UK based charity Human Rights at Sea.
The call for written evidence is completed and all written evidence submitted to the Committee, including that of Human Rights at Sea, is now available to read and download here.