Forcible Acts by States towards Non-State Actors Operating in Disputed Waters: Beyond the Limits of International Law?

Authors: Marianthi Pappa Published date: 15-01-2019 Status: Published

The obligation of States to not use force against other States is now well established in international law both on land and at sea. Unless authorized by the Security Council or based on self-defence, non-compliance with this rule is a breach of international law and may give rise to State responsibility for wrongful act. The same cannot be argued about States’ behaviour towards non-State actors. An example comes from the area of contested waters, where private oil companies authorized by one of the disputing States may be forcibly evicted or have their personnel detained by the other disputant with acts which exceed the limits of law enforcement. International law of the sea fails to determine the legality of such behaviour and the means by which the affected private actor may respond. But insofar as the law does not explicitly oblige States to respect private actors and prevents the latter from submitting personal claims to international fora, private interests in contested waters will remain unprotected against unlawful State acts.

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