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The Interception of Vessels on the High Seas

The principal aim of this book is to address the international legal questions arising from the 'right of visit on the high seas' in the twenty-first century. This right is considered the most significant exception to the fundamental principle of the freedom of the high seas (the freedom, in peacetime, to remain free of interference by ships of another flag). It is this freedom that has been challenged by a recent significant increase in interceptions to counter the threats of international terrorism and WMD proliferation, or to suppress transnational organised crime at sea, particularly the trafficking of narcotics and smuggling of migrants. The author questions whether the principle of non-interference has been so significantly curtailed as to have lost its relevance in the contemporary legal order of the oceans. The book begins with an historical and theoretical examination of the framework underlying interception. This historical survey informs the remainder of the work, which then looks at the legal framework of the right of visit, contemporary challenges to the traditional right, interference on the high seas for the maintenance of international peace and security, interferences to maintain the 'bon usage' of the oceans (navigation and fishing), piracy jure gentium and current counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, the problems posed by illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, interdiction operations to counter drug and people trafficking, and recent interception operations in the Mediterranean Sea organised by FRONTEX.
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction I. Introductory Remarks: Enquiring Maritime Interception on the High Seas II. Contemporary Challenges to the Freedom of the High Seas and Maritime Interception III. The Outline of the Book 2. The Theoretical Framework of the Right of Visit on the High Seas: Mare Liberum v Mare Clausum Revisited I. The Historical Claims to Freedom of the Seas II. Contemporary Right of Visit: Lessons from the Historical and the Theoretical Framework of Mare Liberum III. Interference in the Contemporary Legal Order of the Oceans: Concluding Remarks 3. The Law of Maritime Interception on the High Seas I. Introductory Remarks II. The Right of Visit on the High Seas in Wartime III. The Right of Visit on the High Seas in Peacetime 4. Interception on the High Seas in the Context of Peace and Security: The Right of Visit in Cases of Armed Conflict and Security Council's Action I. Introductory Remarks II. The Belligerent Right of Visit and Search and its Contemporary Application in the Legal Order of the Oceans III. Conclusions 5 Contemporary Challenges to the International Peace and Security: International Terrorism and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction I. Introduction II. The Challenges of International Terrorism and WMD Proliferation III. Responses and Interdiction Operations within an Institutional Framework IV. Responses and Interdiction Operations beyond International Organisations V. Legal Justifications for Unilateral Interdiction Measures under General International Law VI. Additional International Legal Issues: Use of Force, Enforcement Jurisdiction and Human Rights VII. Concluding Remarks 6 Maritime Interception to Safeguard the Fundamental Freedoms of the High Seas I. Introduction II. The Case of Piracy Jure Gentium as a Threat to the Freedom of Navigation and Commerce III. IUU Fishing as a Threat to the Freedom of Fishing 7 Interception on the High Seas to Counter Drug Trafficking I. Introduction II. International Legal Justifications for Interference with Drug Smuggling on the High Seas III. Additional International Legal Issues in the Course of Interception Operations IV. Concluding Remarks 8 Interception on the High Seas and Human Beings I. Introduction II. International Legal Justifications for Interference on the High Seas III. Additional International Legal Issues in the Course of Interception Operations of Human Beings IV. Concluding Remarks 9 Conclusions

About the Author

Efthymios Papastavridis is a part-time Lecturer, University of Thrace, Faculty of Law and Research Fellow at the Academy of Athens. He was appointed Director of the 2012 Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations (English-Speaking Section), The Hague Academy of International Law.


One of the main contributions of Papastavridis' study is to approach from a theoretical and historical viewpoint issues which are often left to practitioners. -- Seline Trevisanut * European Journal of International Law, Volume 25 * The Interception of Vessels on the High Seas is a useful scholarly addition to the maritime security literature...a highly competent survey of contemporary practice. -- Michael A Becker * The Irish Yearbook of International Law * These works of high scholarship provoke serious thought on neglected subjects. -- A.G Noorani * Frontline Magazine, October 31 2014 (review of this work and 'The Law and Practice of Piracy at Sea') *

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