Sealand

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Principality of Sealand
(a self-declared micronation)
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Flag of the Principality of Sealand
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Principality of Sealand: Coat of arms
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: E mare libertas (Latin: From the sea, freedom)
Official language English
Self-styled Sovereign Prince Roy and Princess Joan
Self-styled Head of State Prince Regent Michael
Area
- Total
(Not ranked)
550 m�
Population (Not ranked)
1 (Prince Michael; but there are 14 government employees, perhaps not all posted in Sealand.) (2002)
Establishment Day of Declaration of Independence, 2 September 1967
Currency Sealand dollar pegged to USD
Time zone UTC
For information on the shipping company of the same name, see Maersk Sealand.

The entity known as the Principality of Sealand is a self-declared micronation constructed on Roughs Tower, an abandoned World War II offshore fortress in the North Sea six miles off the coast of Suffolk, England (51�53'40"N, 1�28'57"E). The viewpoint of the self-proclaimed government is that Sealand is a sovereign state. This is disputed by the UK government [1]: a common theory is that recognition by other states is one of the requirements [2] for statehood, but Sealand has not been granted this from any state. Its political status is discussed further below.

The finances of the entity are largely dependent on HavenCo.

History

Roughs Tower, constructed in 1942 by the UK and inhabited by 150-300 UK Royal Navy personnel, had been deserted since the end of World War II. On September 2, 1967, the fort was occupied by Paddy Roy Bates, a British subject and pirate radio broadcaster, who claimed it as his own. At that time, the United Kingdom claimed territorial waters of three nautical miles from its coast. Thus, Roughs Tower was in international waters, outside the territorial jurisdiction of any state. After consulting with several lawyers, Bates declared the fortress to be an independent state, named it Sealand, and declared himself and his wife, Joan Bates, to be its sovereign rulers -- Prince Roy and Princess Joan.

Prince Roy and Princess Joan
Prince Roy and Princess Joan
in the late-1960s

In 1968, the British navy perhaps attempted to evict the new inhabitants of Roughs Tower, or perhaps came to repair a nearby buoy. Prince Roy responded by firing several shots at the vessels, and as a result was summoned to a British court. The court delivered its decision on November 25, 1968: since the incident happened outside of British territory, it was outside of the court's jurisdiction. The UK government continued to pursue the occupants of Sealand for 15 years with a series of litigations involving payment of social security taxes, television licensing, and other matters, but the court has consistently ruled Sealand was not a part of the United Kingdom.

In 1978, while the Prince was away, Sealand's then Prime Minister, Professor Alexander G Achenbach and several Dutch citizens forcibly took over Roughs Tower and held Prince Roy's son, Michael, captive, releasing Michael several days later in the Netherlands. Roy enlisted some well-armed help and, in a helicopter assault, retook the fortress. He then held the invaders captive, claiming them as prisoners of war. The Dutch participants in the invasion were repatriated at the cessation of the "war", however Achenbach, a German citizen, was charged with treason against Sealand and imprisoned indefinitely. The governments of the Netherlands and Germany petitioned the British government for his release, but the United Kingdom disavowed all responsibility, citing the 1968 court decision. Germany then sent a diplomat to Roughs Tower to negotiate for Achenbach's release, and after several weeks Prince Roy relented - subsequently claiming that the diplomat's visit constituted de facto recognition of Sealand by Germany. As of 2004, Germany has not confirmed this interpretation. Following his repatriation Professor Achenbach established an "exile" government in Germany, in opposition to Prince Roy, assuming the title of "Chairman of the Privy Council". Upon Achenbach's resignation for health reasons in August 1989, the rebel government's "Minister for Economic Co-operation", Johannes Seiger assumed control, with the position of "Prime Minister and Chairman of the Privy Council". Seiger continues to claim that he is Sealand's legitimate ruling authority, but he has in fact never exercised control over Roughs Tower.

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Map of the location of "Sealand"

Prince Roy's son, Prince Michael, entered into a partnership with Ryan Lackey, founder of HavenCo, to use Sealand as an electronic data haven, offering colocation. HavenCo has been running services from Sealand since May 2000, but Lackey left HavenCo in 2002.

HavenCo's proprietors claim that their business is prospering and that, despite Lackey's departure, things are going fine.

Is Sealand a real country?

Sealand's claims of de jure and de facto recognition have repeatedly been analyzed by law professors and others. One set of criteria for statehood under international law is contained in the Montevideo Convention, namely a defined territory, permanent population, government and the capacity to enter into relationships with other states. As these criteria are commonly understood, a "permanent population" does not entail a population of any specific size; however, the character of that population is taken into account. Similar arguments can be made with respect to the other three Montevideo convention criteria, particularly regarding whether man-built structures can constitute territory in the sense of the convention.

A non-disputable legal argument against the statehood of Sealand exists in the constitutive theory (a theory widely but not universally accepted in international law), which, contrary to the Montevideo Convention, states that recognition by other states is a condition for statehood. Since no other state recognizes the existence of the Principality of Sealand, Sealand is not a state under the theory's criteria. Constitutive theory involves "recognition of existence" as opposed to "diplomatic recognition", i.e. until recently Libya was not recognised diplomatically, but was acknowledged to exist, as the UK government undertook special measures to protect its citizens in the state and did not accept that any other state had sovereignty over Libya.

Sealand, however, believes it has de facto recognition.

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Sealand several months after the fire.

Since the 1968 court decision, the United Kingdom has extended its territorial sea to twelve nautical miles, in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Sealand has also claimed the waters surrounding Roughs Tower [3]. In a firearms incident in 1990, Prince Roy fired upon the Royal Maritime Auxiliary vessel "Golden Eye". The vessel radioed the Thames Coastguard, and withdrew.

Despite passing highly restrictive legislation such as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, the UK Government has apparently not attempted to regulate communications or require records from computer servers located on Sealand; equally data protection legislation concerning the transfer of data outside the United Kingdom are not enforced in respect of Sealand, as the UK government continue to assert sovereignty over Sealand.

Although the United Kingdom publicly asserts its authority over Roughs Tower, it appears to be government policy to refrain from comment or action except when forced. British Government documents, now available to the public under the 30 year expiration of confidentiality, show that the UK drafted plans to retake the fortress, but such plans were nixed by the Prime Minister due to potential for loss of life, and concomitant legal and public relations disaster.

Sealand has several ancillary features of a state, including a constitution, a flag, a national anthem, a national motto, postage stamps, currency (1 Sealand dollar equaling 1 US dollar), and passports. For a period, Sealand passports were mass manufactured and widely sold by the same German who took the fort. These passports have been involved in several high-profile crimes, including the murder of Gianni Versace. Due to the massive quantity (150,000) in circulation, all Sealand passports were revoked in 1997.

Possible legal quandaries similar to the statehood of Sealand are no longer possible today. Since the third conference on the laws of the sea, the nearest neighboring state is now required to consent to the construction of any artificial island pursuant to the convention on the laws of the sea of the United Nations on December 10, 1982, in Montego Bay. Moreover, this convention requires the neighboring state to pull down the artificial constructions immediately after use or to have them removed.

According to this convention, there is no transitional law and no possibility to consent to the existence of such a construction which was previously approved or built by the neighboring state. This means that it is unimaginable that a case like Sealand will ever occur again. An artificial island can no longer be constructed and then claimed as a sovereign state, or as state territory for the purposes of extension of an exclusive economic zone or territorial waters.

Domestic law

Prince Roy of Sealand claimed sovereignty and declared independence since 2 September 1967, and later chartered a Sealand State Corporation charged with the development of the state. The legal system is said to follow common law.

Constitution

Prince Roy has enforced a constitution in 1995 with a preamble and 7 articles, summarized here:

  • Preamble: Attestations of: independence; the purpose of the State being the betterment of mankind; laissez-faire; previous 'framework Constitution of fairness and equity'
  • Article 1: Constitutional monarchy; empowerment of the government bureaux
  • Article 2: An appointed, advisory Senate and its role in proposing legislation (not a full legislature)
  • Article 3: One tribunal, consisting of 3 'persons seen to be experts in the Process of Law', can give an opinion to the Sovereign (not a full judiciary); decision is issued by the Sovereign.
  • Article 4: Sovereign solely has power in foreign relations.
  • Article 5: The Sealand Guard: exclusion of Guard in the Senate; arms banned in Sealand other than Guard.
  • Article 6: Patrilineal succession of Sovereign.
  • Article 7: Alteration of Constitution by the Sovereign.

Structure of government

Outside the Sovereign and the Head of State, the government entities are the Senate, the Advocate-General, the Sealand Guard and the Office of the Head of State. The last, in turn, has 3 bureaux: the Bureau of External Affairs, the Bureau of Internal Affairs, and the Bureau of Posts Telecomms and Technology (sic; see Postal code).

The Judiciary and legal profession

The chief of the Bureau of Internal Affairs said in a letter that the Advocate-General "may call tribunals in appropriate circumstances". As there is little media coverage of Sealand matters, it is not clear whether the Tribunal is constitutionally prescribed or if the (perhaps ad hoc) tribunals Advocate-General calls are typical. In any case, as per the constitution, ultimate judicial power rests in the Sovereign. The Bureau of Internal Affairs vets and registers qualified legal professionals to practice Sealand law.

Statutes

Per the Constitution (Article 2) statutes are enacted by the Sovereign. They appear to take the form of Decrees, such as 'Companies Decree 2000' and 'e-Commerce Decree 2000' . The official website also displays several Statutory Notices.

Princes and Princesses of Sealand

Postal trivia

Sealand postage stamps are used on at least some correspondence from the government bureaux and in such cases are cancelled by Sealand. The United Kingdom's Royal Mail stamps such envelopes 'revenue protection', in order to be able to claim postal carriage charges from the recipient. Apparently though, contemporary examples exist of mail bearing Sealand stamps and cancellations, to the exclusion of all others, being transmitted through the international postal system. The address for 2 of the bureaux is 'Sealand 1001; Sealand Post Bag, IP11 9SZ, UK'. The Royal Mail postcode is the one for Felixstowe near Ipswich, and the Royal Mail website gives the following standardized address: 'Sealand Fort, PO Box 3, FELIXSTOWE, IP11 9SZ'

Sealand is not a member of the Universal Postal Union, which regulates the sending of mail between countries, and its address is in what it claims is a foreign country - in the same way that mail for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus must be addressed to 'Mersin 10, Turkey'.

References

Legal opinions regarding Sealand

  • Bela Vitanyi (Professor in Public International Law, University of Nijmegen) ~1970, "Legal Opinion about the International Status of the Principality of Sealand". Professor Vitanyi is author of several books on international maritime law and is a highly respected authority.
  • Dr Walter Leisner
  • L. W. Conway, 27 March 1981

See also

External links


This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Sealand.
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