UTech head says Jamaica respects rule of law in int'l affairs

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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PRESIDENT, University of Technology (UTech), Professor Stephen Vasciannie, says Jamaica has sought, throughout the years, to show great respect for principles of the rule of law in international affairs.

He was speaking at the inaugural biennial lecture in honour of the 25th anniversary of the International Seabed Authority and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, yesterday.

“Jamaica believes in the rule of law. As a small island developing state, we have to believe in the rule of law because we stand to benefit from the application of the law to our international and national affairs. As part of that, Jamaica has declared itself an archipelagic state through the Maritime Areas Act, and this is an attempt to follow the Convention,” the president said.

“Jamaica is keen to follow the Convention. There is a rule that says no baseline for an archipelagic state should be longer than 125 miles. Jamaica had a baseline which was 140, but we were able to divide it into two parts and have established a lighthouse in order to ensure the division, so our baseline system conforms fully with the Law of the Sea Convention, but this helps us because it allows us to extend our territorial sea and our exclusive economic zone,” he added.

Professor Vasciannie said while it is not advantageous to Jamaica to have nuclear vessels sailing through its territorial seas or archipelagic waters, it is accepted.

“We accept it because Article 23 of the Law of the Sea Convention contemplates that provided certain safeguards are respected, nuclear ships and ships with nuclear waste should be allowed to pass, and so we accept that,” he said.

Turning to the Shiprider Agreement, he said Jamaica's decision to waive primary jurisdiction in respect of Jamaican fishermen who were taken into custody by the US authorities is supported by legislation.

“It's clear, though, that if there were human rights abuses, there needs to be a remedy for that. The point I want to make, however, is that the Jamaican decision is supported by legislation which allows Jamaica, by deliberate choice, to transfer Jamaicans to the Americans,” he said.

“So, the problem is likely to be the treatment of the persons, but Jamaica is allowed to transfer the persons under Jamaican law, and this was achieved by amendment to law,” the professor explained.

The matter is under consideration by the courts, as four of the five fishermen have brought a case against the US Coast Guard for alleged mistreatment, following their arrest and detention.

The professor noted that the Shiprider Agreement applies to territorial seas and archipelagic waters, but not Jamaican ports.

Jamaica entered into the Shiprider Agreement in 1997, which was brought into force by the passage of the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act, 1998. This Act has since been amended twice — in 2005 and in 2016.

The agreement sought further cooperation in deterring the movement of illicit drugs through Jamaican territorial waters from South America to the US. It further allows for cooperation in ship boarding, ship riding and overflight.

Meanwhile, the professor said Jamaica is showing respect for the Montego Bay Convention and for other treaties with respect to the Law of the Sea.

“The Montego Bay Convention satisfies the requirements of the rule of law. The deep seabed is an important area for maritime exploration and could lead to significant economic development for many states, but there is a serious problem concerning certainty to be applied to that regime,” he said.

Professor Vasciannie's speech was centred on the theme, 'The Role of the Montego Bay Convention and the International Seabed Authority in Contributing to International Rule of Law'.


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