Expert Disagrees With US Court Declaring Sea Shepherd Pirate
UC Law Expert Disagrees With US Court Declaring Sea
Shepherd Group As Pirates
March 1, 2013
In the latest stage of the stoush over Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean, a US Court has declared the conservation group Sea Shepherd ‘pirates’ and ordered it to stop its aggressive actions against Japanese whalers.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski delivered a powerful view in his decision summary.
``You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate. No matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be,” Judge Kozinski said.
UC Law Professor Karen Scott said characterising the activities of the Sea Shepherd group as ‘piracy’ had potentially far-reaching implications for international law.
``I don’t agree with the court’s interpretation of piracy, which has the effect of substantially broadening the scope of this offence.
``Piracy is a crime of universal jurisdiction and pirates can therefore be prosecuted by any state even where there is no connection between the prosecuting state and the pirates, pirate vessel or the victims. Moreover, any state can board and seize a pirate vessel on the high seas.
``These rights do not generally apply to other offences committed at sea. One potential consequence of this decision, particularly if it were followed in other jurisdictions, would be to permit Sea Shepherd vessels to be boarded by any state on the high seas and for its crew to be prosecuted in any jurisdiction.
``This arguably goes too far and cannot be supported under international law as it stands today,” Professor Scott said.
The US Court of Appeal went on to discuss the relevance of the fact that the whaling activities are taking place in Australian Antarctic Territory.
``Unsurprisingly the court dismissed this as a consideration and confirmed the long-held position that the US does not recognise Australian sovereignty in, and consequently, jurisdiction over, the Antarctic.
``Rather surprisingly however, the court made no reference to the legal proceedings initiated by Australian against Japan in the International Court of Justice in 2010, in which New Zealand is intervening, challenging Japan’s scientific whaling programme under the 1946 International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling.
``It would appear that not only is the battle in the Southern Ocean on-going but an equally undignified one is developing in the US courts over this matter,’’ Professor Scott said.
Although an international
treaty has banned commercial whaling for 25 years
certain countries have issued permits to hunt whales for
scientific research, including Japan and Norway.