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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 239
May 27, 2006

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Star Law Analysis

International law of the sea: Bangladesh perspective

Khan Ferdousour Rahman

Very recently, both India and Myanmar are exploring hydrocarbon within Bangladesh's deep-sea territory. Bangladesh being a coastal state should protect its legitimate rights within economic zone and maritime boundary. There exists no demarcation of sea with neighbouring India and Myanmar. As her naval power is also not strong, so the dispute must be settled through mutual understanding, if not then through international arbitration maintaining sovereignty. To settle this type of dispute, there is an International Law of the Sea. Bangladesh can always take the advantage of this international instrument as a party of that treaty.

The international law of the sea
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is considered as one of the most comprehensive instruments of international law. The Convention covers all aspects of ocean space as follows:

  • Navigation and overflight
  • Resources exploration and exploitation
  • Conservation and pollution
  • Fishing and shipping

This Law consists of total 320 Articles and 9 Annexes. This landmark treaty, which was incorporated on December 10, 1982 became effective on November 16, 1994, providing the framework for all aspects of ocean sovereignty, jurisdiction, use and state rights, as well as obligations.

Main features:

  • 12 nautical miles as the limit of territorial sea, over which the State will exercise sovereignty, though foreign ships on peaceful voyages will be able to pass.
    Beyond that upto 200 nautical miles is Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), where coastal state will have sovereign rights over fisheries and other resources and all other nations will retain freedom of navigation.
  • Beneath the water of this zone and extending beyond that on the Continental Shelf, the Coastal State will have full control of resources, but will share with international community the revenue derived from any part of the Shelf beyond 200 miles.
  • Beyond national jurisdiction, all States are to enjoy freedom of navigation, overflight, scientific research and fishing.
  • Land-locked States will have the right to access to the sea, under the terms to be mutually agreed upon with the State through which their goods and nationals pass.
  • The ocean bottom beyond national jurisdiction is proclaimed to be the 'Common Heritage of Mankind'.

The Convention established three specific Organs to deal with various appeals of the Law of the Sea as follows:

  • International Seabed Authority, established in 1994 in Kingston, Jamaica for exploration and exploitation of resources.
  • International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany operational since 1996 for settling any dispute.
  • Commission on the limits of the Continental Shelf based at UNHQ recommends to States that claim Shelf extending beyond 200 miles from their coast.

Bangladesh should take all out efforts through diplomatic channel to resolve the dispute without losing any interest in maritime boundary. On failure, it must go to International Tribunal at Hamburg for settling this dispute with both India and Myanmar.

The author is a freelancer.


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