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Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf

Adopted 10 March 1988; Entry into force 1 March 1992; 2005 Protocols: Adopted 14 October 2005; Entry into force 28 July 2010


Concern about unlawful acts which threaten the safety of ships and the security of their passengers and crews grew during the 1980s, with reports of crews being kidnapped, ships being hi-jacked, deliberately run aground or blown up by explosives. Passengers were threatened and sometimes killed.
 
In November 1985 the problem was considered by IMO's 14th Assembly and a proposal by the United States that measures to prevent such unlawful acts should be developed by IMO was supported.
 
The Assembly adopted resolution A.584(14) Measures to prevent unlawful acts which threaten the safety of ships and the security of their passengers and crew, then in 1086 the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)   issued a Circular (MSC/Circ.443) on Measures to prevent unlawful acts against passengers and crews on board ships.
 
In November 1986 the Governments of Austria, Egypt and Italy proposed that IMO prepare a convention on the subject of unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation 'to provide for a comprehensive suppression of unlawful acts committed against the safety of maritime navigation which endanger innocent human lives, jeopardize the safety of persons and property, seriously affect the operation of maritime services and thus are of grave concern to the international community as a whole."
 
In March 1988 a conference  in Rome  adopted the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation.The main purpose of the Convention is to ensure that appropriate action is taken against persons committing unlawful acts against ships. These include the seizure of ships by force; acts of violence against persons on board ships; and the placing of devices on board a ship which are likely to destroy or damage it.
 
The Convention obliges Contracting Governments either to extradite or prosecute alleged offenders.
 
Important amendments to the 1988 Convention  and its related Protocol, were adopted by the Diplomatic Conference on the Revision of the SUA Treaties held from 10 to 14 October 2005. The amendments were adopted in the form of Protocols to the SUA treaties (the 2005 Protocols).
 
2005 Protocol to the SUA Convention
Among the unlawful acts covered by the SUA Convention in Article 3 are the seizure of ships by force; acts of violence against persons on board ships; and the placing of devices on board a ship which are likely to destroy or damage it.
 
The 2005 Protocol to the SUA Convention adds a new Article 3bis which states that a person commits an offence within the meaning of the Convention if that person unlawfully and intentionally:
 
· when the purpose of the act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from any act: 
  - uses against or on a ship or discharging from a ship any explosive, radioactive material or BCN (biological, chemical, nuclear) weapon in a manner that causes or is likely to cause death or serious injury or damage;
  - discharges, from a ship, oil, liquefied natural gas, or other hazardous or noxious substance, in such quantity or concentration that causes or is likely to cause death or serious injury or damage;
  - uses a ship in a manner that causes death or serious injury or damage;
· transports on board a ship any explosive or radioactive material, knowing that it is intended to be used to cause, or in a threat to cause, death or serious injury or damage for the purpose of intimidating a population, or compelling a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act;
· transports on board a ship any BCN weapon, knowing it to be a BCN weapon; 
· any source material, special fissionable material, or equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material, knowing that it is intended to be used in a nuclear explosive activity or in any other nuclear activity not under safeguards pursuant to an IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreement; and
· transports on board a ship any equipment, materials or software or related technology that significantly contributes to the design, manufacture or delivery of a BCN weapon, with the intention that it will be used for such purpose.
 
The transportation of nuclear material is not considered an offence if such item or material is transported to or from the territory of, or is otherwise transported under the control of, a State Party to the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Subject to conditions).
 
Under the new instrument, a person commits an offence within the meaning of the Convention if that person unlawfully and intentionally transports another person on board a ship knowing that the person has committed an act that constitutes an offence under the SUA Convention or an offence set forth in any treaty listed in the Annex. The Annex lists nine such treaties.
 
The new instrument also makes it an offence to unlawfully and intentionally injure or kill any person in connection with the commission of any of the offences in the Convention; to attempt to commit an offence; to participate as an accomplice; to organize or direct others to commit an offence; or to contribute to the commissioning of an offence.
A new Article requires Parties to take necessary measures to enable a legal entity (this could be a company or organization, for example) to be made liable and to face sanctions when a person responsible for management of control of that legal entity has, that capacity, committed an offence under the Convention.
 
Boarding provisions
Article 8 of the SUA Convention covers the responsibilities and roles of the master of the ship, flag State and receiving State in delivering to the authorities of any State Party any person believed to have committed an offence under the Convention, including the furnishing of evidence pertaining to the alleged offence.
 
A new Article 8bis in the 2005 Protocol covers co-operation and procedures to be followed if a State Party desires to board a ship flying the flag of a State Party when the requesting Party has reasonable grounds to suspect that the ship or a person on board the ship is, has been, or is about to be involved in, the commission of an offence under the Convention.
 
The authorization and co-operation of the flag State is required before such a boarding. A State Party may notify the IMO Secretary-General that it would allow authorization to board and search a ship flying its flag, its cargo and persons on board if there is no response from the flag State within four hours. A State Party can also notify that it authorizes a requesting Party to board and search the ship, its cargo and persons on board, and to question the persons on board to determine if an offence has been, or is about to be, committed.
 
The use of force is to be avoided except when necessary to ensure the safety of officials and persons on board, or where the officials are obstructed to the execution of authorized actions.
 
Article 8bis includes important safeguards when a State Party takes measures against a ship, including boarding. The safeguards include: not endangering the safety of life at sea; ensuring that all persons on board are treated in a manner which preserves human dignity and in keeping with human rights law; taking due account of safety and security of the ship and its cargo; ensuring that measures taken are environmentally sound; and taking reasonable efforts to avoid a ship being unduly detained or delayed.
 
Extradition
Article 11 covers extradition procedures. A new Article 11bis states that none of the offences should be considered for the purposes of extradition as a political offence. New article 11ter states that the obligation to extradite or afford mutual legal assistance need not apply if the request for extradition is believed to have been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of that person's race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, political opinion or gender, or that compliance with the request would cause prejudice to that person's position for any of these reasons.
 
Article 12 of the Convention requires States Parties to afford one another assistance in connection with criminal proceedings brought in respect of the offences. A new Article 12bis cover the conditions under which a person who is being detained or is serving a sentence in the territory of one State Party may be transferred to another State Party for purposes of identification, testimony or otherwise providing assistance in obtaining evidence for the investigation or prosecution of offences.

Amendment procedure
Amendments to the Articles in the Convention require acceptance by a requisite number of States. However, the Annex, which lists the treaties under which offences can be considered for the purpose of the SUA Convention, has a special amendment procedure.
 
The treaties listed are: 
  •  Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, done at The Hague on 16 December 1970
  • Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, done at Montreal on 23 September 1971
  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 14 December 1973 
  • International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 17 December 1979
  • Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, done at Vienna on 26 October 1979
  • Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, done at Montreal on 24 February 1988
  • Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf, done at Rome on 10 March 1988 
  • International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 15 December 1997
  • International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1999.
2005 Protocol to the 1988 SUA Protocol
The amendments to the 1988 Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf reflect those in the 2005 Protocol to the SUA Convention.
 
New article 2bis broadens the range of offences included in the Protocol. A person commits an offence if that person unlawfully and intentionally, when the purpose of the act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, uses against or on a fixed platform or discharges from a fixed platform any explosive, radioactive material or BCN weapon in a manner that causes or is likely to cause death or serious injury or damage; or discharges from a fixed platform, oil, liquefied natural gas, or other hazardous or noxious substance, in such quantity or concentration, that it causes or is likely to cause death or serious injury or damage; or threatens, with or without a condition, as is provided for under national law, to commit an offence.
 
New article 2ter includes the offences of unlawfully and intentionally injuring or killing any person in connection with the commission of any of the offences; attempting to commit an offence; participating as an accomplice; organizing or directing others to commit an offence.