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Can you do anything in international waters?

International waters are not ruled by any country, right? I want to get a big boat so I can go out there and do anything I want and not worry about the police.

4681 day(s) ago

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As an individual, no, you cannot do anything you want, even in international waters. If you were a country, thatís a different story. According to international treaties, the deep sea can belong to no single country. Unfortunately, every country retains the right to subject its citizens to its laws no matter where they may be.

Freedom of the high seas has been duly established by international law since the 17th century. This was established after nations with large fleets of vessels claimed they had control over large territories of ocean. This prevented other countries from passing through those territories to trade and explore. A Dutch judge by the name of Grotius spoke up on behalf of his country to have the right of free passage on the open seas.

After the Dutch established themselves on the seas, Grotius conveniently changed his mind and argued that the Dutch should be allowed control over several parts of the seas. A diplomatic argument with England began over the ordeal, and England ended up quoting Grotiusís own book against him. After that, the freedom of the seas was rarely argued between nations again.

One point of contention has been where the open seas begin. All countries claim the right to the waters around their shores. Originally, the distance this extended was 3 miles. This distance was chosen because 3 miles put the shore just out of reach of a shipís cannons at the time. Since then, the distance has been extended to 24 miles.

In 1982, the current international law regarding the open seas was established by the United Nations. It is called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC). Even though the LOSC establishes that the high seas may not fall into the jurisdiction of any sovereign country, ships are still subject to the laws of its home country. This means that, legally, being on a ship from a particular country is the same thing as being in the country proper.

Your whole dream of personal independence from the law only gets worse from here. Being on a ship is not the only way you are bound to a nationís laws. In some instances, if your actions infringe on the rights of people from other nations, you may be subject to the laws of the victimsí country. If you do something that harms national security or the interests of a particular country, they have the right to hold you liable.

Finally, there exists what is called universal jurisdiction. This means that particularly bad crimes like piracy and murder can be prosecuted by any country. In addition, this allows any country to investigate a ship that claims to be without a country.

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