Legal Opinion On Sealand Statehood By Jacobo Rios Rodriguez – Senior Lecturer In Public Law At University Of Perpignan Via Domitia

Legal opinion on the international status of the State Sealand

Presented by

Dr. Béla Vitányi Professor of Public International Law

University Nijmegen


  1. The formation of states in general
  2. The problem of States founded on an artificial installation in territorial waters
  3. The idea of state territory in international law
  4. The rights of a coastal state towards the mainland
  5. Comparative cases of jurisdiction of coastal States on artificial islands on Lake oher
  6. The specific legal status of the territory of the Principality of Sealand
  7. The legal status of the platform “Roughs Tower” before the occupation
  8. The conditions of occupation of territories in international law
  9. The occupation of an area without “master by individuals”
  10. The importance of the state at the moment
  11. International recognition of a new state
  12. View of the legal nature of the certification
  13. The conditions for recognition
  14. The forms of recognition of the new state

The creation of a state generally

For doctrine of international law the following 3 elements are necessary in order to establish a state. These correspond to the formulation of Dr. Reuter: “In order to establish a state needs to a population and a territory”. International practice confirms this thesis. The mixed German-Polish Arbitral Tribunal declared in the case of the German continental gas company in 1929, as follows:

A state exists under the condition that he has a territory that can be inhabited by humans, and the territory is accessible to the public for the population.

One can also definitions that have been “conventions of rights and obligations of a State” the 7th International Conference of American States in Montevideo from 26 December 1933 established in Article 1 of, consult. The state is a person of international law and should have the following qualifications:

  1. a permanent population;
  2. a defined territory;
  3. a government;
  4. the competence and the ability to go into relations with other states.

In fact, international law determines the legal status of a physical person, as well as its capacity within the sphere in which he lives, to act. Similarly, the state is to exist by the people themselves in international law. No doubt, if it is a fact that a community that purports to have these skills, can actually introduce these elements within a state.

In every state there is a power that is delivered to specific organs, and serves to govern a population. This political power, which is often represented as a public authority intended to mean nothing more than sovereignty. Sovereignty itself as original power in the sense that it is apparent from any other power. The other hand, sovereignty supreme power in a context of a well-defined skills. Not only that it moreover is nothing but that it exclusively in its sphere is also valid and it does not allow the same or rival power.

Outstanding publications that have dealt with international law, consider direct subjection to international law for the logical consequence of the competence of a state.

This is also the view of Guggenheim:

The direct subordination of people of a sovereign state is called Independence. A self-governing human community that submits a regular effective legal system and thus can participate in international traffic”.

Verdross writes the same content and formulated as follows:

“A sovereign state is a complete and permanent human community with full self-government, which is connected to an international law directly in a given area with regular effective legal system, and is organized so that they can participate in international traffic”.

The legal order of the Principality of Sealand unfounded by a superior authority. The head of state of Sealand is a Prince, which is assisted by state boards. These perform the legislative power.

A government ensures a functioning executive and a high court may be called upon to perform the legal power. The power of these authorities and the rights of the residents are regulated by the Constitution. This constitution results from the Bill of Rights, adopted by the prince. Sealand has declared its Constitution and its other laws in order to practice with full self-determination internal and external matters can. This completely independent of external powers.

The adaptation of the general British legal system was adopted to target the sovereignty of will of Sealand. The acquisition of a foreign legal system (a foreign Rechtsbarkeit) in some respects is not an unusual system within the international life. In the 20s, Turkey has adopted the Swiss civil law. The new states that were created after World War 1, and Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, kept the legal system of the states to which they belonged before they were independent. Such a procedure is not contrary to the independence of any state. Provided, of course, that the decision taken by the state, was a decision on the basis of his free will.

In light of these facts, we come to the following conclusion:

Sealand has shown public authority and all the normal functions of a state power inside and in the exterior, which is represented by its parent exclusive power over his own territory. This principality subject to any foreign jurisdiction. His national legal system is based on the parent legal system within the territory. This leads to the statement that Sealand has direct connection to international law. Consequently, the sovereignty of Sealand can not be denied. Sealand is therefore recognized as a subject of international law.

The problem of a State on an artificial installation in territorial waters to establish

The term “State territory” in international law is the area in which the activities of state his superior authority. (According to the award recognition, proclaimed by Max Huber on the island Palmas 1928):

It follows that sovereignty relates to a partial surface of the globe and the legally necessary condition for the inclusion of a portion of territory in a given country. Sovereignty in relation to territory is called territorial sovereignty. Sovereignty between states means independence. Independence with respect to a portion of the globe is the right to reign herein, regardless of any other State to exercise the functions of a state. “

International law does not impose any conditions for the size of a state’s territory!

The UN Report on the International arbitration Recognition On 14 December 1970 confirms this statement upon evidence of 94 to 1 and 20 abstentions. The Assembly, after considering the matter relating to the country American Samoa, Antiqua, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Vergin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Dominica, St. Helena, St. Licia, Sychellen, St. Vincent, Solomon Islands, Takelau Turks and Ciacos Islands (territories, some of which no more than 100 residents have) expressed their conviction that the question of territorial size, geographical remoteness or limited resources may be delayed by no means the implementation of the independence of these territories. “

The State territory of Sealand is a platform in the southern part of the North Sea, 51-53-40 ° north latitude, 01-28-57 ° east longitude. So one takes away the dateline from Landguard Point on the north side to the Naze above Walton, the platform is just 5-6 miles away from the dateline and thus three miles outside the British territorial waters.

It follows that the size of the territory of the Principality of Sealand can not be an obstacle for other States to recognize Sealand as an independent state.

In Article 2 of coastal states sovereign rights are enshrined. The coastal State may also establish safety zones for their own safety in the 500 m radius.

The special legal status of the Principality of Sealand

The establishment of the Principality of Sealand is the effort of the founders of states to build on an artificial island within the high seas a new state. The platform “Roughs Tower”, which makes up the territory of Sealand, was built by the British Army in WW2 for military purposes at sea. After the war left England this installation. International law calls this the loss of sovereignty over a territory. It freed the territory from the domination of the current state owner. That was 1945. In 1967, the platform “Roughs Tower” indisputably had the status of “res nullius”, and thus stood to cast free!

Occupation means the occupation by squatters, the latter acquires this territory on an international basis. The occupation of a territory similar to this, as the cast of “Roughs Tower”, also takes place in the present time. So the Spanish Navy in February 1968, the small island of Alboran , which is located in the Mediterranean Sea on the 38th latitude entered. The Navy built the Spanish national flag and taken control and therefore only address the now Spanish sovereignty. This international practice shows that regardless of whether a territory is occupied, a State may exercise authority.

For example, the following was found in the case of Clipperton Iceland:

In the moment when an actually completely uninhabited territory was first occupied by a state and occurs this state there, from that moment on, the cast must be regarded as completed and thus be completed undisputed. On the hypothesis of animus occupandi (intellectual occupation), manifested by the symbolic act of hoisting a flag by the occupiers, here the sovereignty is sufficiently demonstrated. For example, were the administrative measures of the Danish government in eastern Greenland with respect to a territory acquisition by a court to be sufficient evidence to exercise state power here, recognized.

Based on all of these analyzes international jurisprudence, we must come to the following conclusion:

“The seizure of” Roughs Tower “in 1967 by a group led by Mr. Roy Bates, with the intention here to also reasons-an independent state as the fact that this group wants to exercise public authority here – what an effective and continuous means functioning of a state, has met all the necessary conditions in international law, to use the title of sovereignty over a territory without an owner.

The cast of “Roughs Tower” and the establishment of the Principality of Sealand is known to the British authorities for more than 10 years. “Roughs Tower” located in the southern part of the North Sea, a few miles from the English coast, in the center of the busiest maritime zone. The rulers of Sealand have hoisted their flag immediately after creation of the Principality; the creation of a new state in this place is so remained no undiscovered.

In addition, Sealand made in 1968 by the right of self-defense use, wanted to create as a freighter of English merchant navy.

To quote the honorable Mr. Justice Lindley: Each state has the full power to his laws, which he believes to be right, for the sake of peace and to defend its own interests within the surrounding sea within 3 miles zone and on its own employ coast.

By finding that Sealand is not the sovereignty of Great Britain is subject, and the fact that Sealand is not subject to British laws, the honorable judge Mr. Justice Chapman declared unable to assess the activities on the island Sealand, because this territory is not English jurisprudence is subject.

The extended inactivity of the British authorities can hardly be interpreted otherwise than as evidence of the acceptance of the cast of “Roughs Tower”. The desisting from any activities against Sealand and the recognition by Mr. Justice Chapman fact that Sealand is outside British sovereignty and not the British jurisprudence subject, expresses the fact that the effective occupation by Roy Bates in international law is valid. From that moment on, Britain had no legal title more to take action against Sealand. In other words, the British authorities have accepted the existence of the Principality of Sealand implied.

International recognition of a new state

The political existence of the state is basically independent of recognition by other states!

Each state can decide whether to recognize a new state. Such a state of some states can be recognized, while others refuse their recognition.


The government of Sealand represents the parent and exclusive power over their territory.

In the 11 years (until today 30 years), which exists the Principality, the stability of the state and the effectiveness of the legal order has been confirmed. The size of the territory does not affect the competence of that State within the international law.

The Foreign Minister of Sealand accepted in his letter of November 5, 1976 – addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations – obligations under the Bill of Rights of the United Nations.

With effect from 26 January 1977, subjected the government of Sealand the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. The Constitution of the Principality guarantees the safeguarding of fundamental human rights. This act leaves no doubt that Sealand is the relations of other countries in general and with respect to the rules of international law adapts.

It follows that the Principality of Sealand meets all the conditions of the international recognition of a new state. In addition, the political existence of Sealand according to international law is independent of recognition by other states.

International practice makes the difference between the “de jure” and “de facto” recognition of a new state. If there are doubts regarding the stability of a country and their exercise of power at any given time, so it may be that the recognition is recognized by existing States regarding Rechtsbarkeit the new state as facultative existing power.

The “de facto” – recognition is a provisional recognition. If a state has proven stability, is from the “de facto” – recognition over time the “de jure” – recognition. This is not the case, the “de facto” – withdraw recognition.

The “de jure” – recognition expresses confidence in the new state. That is, the “de jure” – Recognition can be pronounced even years after the establishment of a state and its validity is reflexively to the moment of creation of the new state.

The recognition can be done in different ways. Either on the direct route , for example by a common recognition decision or by the exchange of diplomatic notes, but can also be performed at rest, then called facta concludia .

These include facts, such as the entry into diplomatic relations with the new state. Even one of them joint participation in multilateral international conferences or joint ventures in multilateral international meetings, although a recognition would be completely unimportant for these contacts. Even the “de jure” – recognition does not necessarily mean the admission of a new State in diplomatic relations. International law makes it not a condition. This was held at the conference for diplomatic relations on April 18, 1961 in Vienna in Article 2:

The establishment of diplomatic relations between States and permanent diplomatic relations among themselves require a mutual agreement.

sgd. B. Vitányi

Nijmegen, May 19, 1978

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.