Following on from participation in the 10 December Law Society’s annual Human Rights conference specifically providing an international view of the work undertaken by the Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) Initiative in the area of modern slavery at sea, the following is a short article outlining the work currently undertaken HRAS and a brief background to its development since its launch on 3rd April of this year.
Founded by David Hammond, a former Royal Navy barrister and now independent counsel practicing with 9 Bedford Row International (the international practice group of the Chambers of Anthony Berry QC), HRAS started as a simple concept of providing an independent document of model guidance for implementing human rights at sea.
This initial concept was, however, rapidly overtaken in response to multiple enquiries and requests from many areas within the maritime industry to address other issues such as migrants, refugees, slavery, trafficking, children’s rights, investigative and welfare services, and the development of HRAS Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects to mirror the General Principles of the 2011 United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, otherwise known as the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework in the maritime sector.
The initiative’s aim is to explicitly raise awareness, implementation and accountability for human rights protections throughout the maritime industry, especially where they are currently absent and being abused, while its vision is four-fold. That being:
- Increased global awareness of the explicit requirement for protection of, respect for and provision of remedies in relation to human rights at sea and abuses thereof.
- Continued international development of effective, enforceable and accountable remedies for human rights abuses at sea.
- Independent and effective State, business and individual lobbying in support of the concept of human rights at sea.
- Global awareness of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the maritime environment and throughout the maritime industry based upon the HRAS initiative.
The HRAS initiative has therefore been independently developed for the benefit of the international community, including the maritime industry, for matters and issues concerning human rights in the maritime environment. It is a work-in-progress and aims to be complementary to existing national and international human rights work relating to the maritime environment, including supporting established seafarers’ organisations and their respective initiatives.
At the time of writing, HRAS is a not-for-profit entity having applied for charitable status. It has a London head office, is represented in 13 states globally by pro bono correspondents, has 47 international supporting entities and partnerships, runs 7 international projects, is undertaking 2 murder investigations of seafarers in international waters, operates independent global investigative, psychological support and anti-trafficking services and has recently been funded for its flagship “Missing Seafarers Reporting Programme”; a vanguard programme aiming to register all missing seafarers and fishermen lost at sea on a global basis. Both the initiative and the programme are global firsts in their approach, vision and content.
The HRAS vision and concept is disseminated through the 47 international ‘Supporting Entities’ who have voluntarily applied to join the initiative and support the underlying HRAS principle that, “Human rights apply at sea, as equally as they do on land”. It will also concurrently develop related human rights projects through international ‘Collaborative Partnerships’; those being entities and individuals who are recognised experts in their respective fields and who can provide a balanced advocacy function where applicable.
Finally and of note, the Law Society has itself, become a Supporting Entity to HRAS and which has provided a significant investment to the weighting, profile and credibility of the initiative on the international stage.