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HFW Supports NGO On Development Of Geneva Declaration On Human Rights At Sea

24 February 2023

Global, sector-focused law firm HFW has continued to support the development of a new Geneva Declaration designed to define and defend the human rights of the global maritime population and those crossing the world’s oceans and seas.

HFW previously carried out a joint review of the Declaration on behalf of UK-based NGO Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), which produced the proposed international convention in 2022 following three years of research and drafting by a team of experts in public, international, humanitarian and refugee law.

The firm has now translated the Declaration into nine different languages – Ukrainian, Russian, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, and Spanish – to assist HRAS’ efforts to secure the support of States around the world for submission to the UN Human Rights Council to formally adopt the Declaration.

With the war in Ukraine now entering its second year, HRAS is discreetly supporting in-conflict and post-conflict activities to obtain justice for victims of human rights abuses, in particular the coastal communities in The Black Sea and Sea of Azov.

Alex Kemp, Partner, HFW:

“HFW is incredibly proud to continue to assist HRAS on this vitally important issue. The Geneva Declaration is a major milestone in the fight to end human rights abuses at sea. We would encourage organisations around the world to support the Declaration in any way that they can, so that the lives of seafarers, who play such a crucial role to everyone’s day-to-day lives, are protected by law.”

David Hammond, CEO, HRAS:

“We are incredibly grateful to HFW for its dedicated and ongoing support. The firm and has been with us since the beginning and has played a vital role throughout the development of the Declaration. These translations are essential in enabling and encouraging the use of the Declaration around the world, to help to obtain justice for victims of human rights abuses at sea.”

The Declaration targets human rights abuses stemming from piracy, criminal violence, breaches of maritime labour rights, seafarer abandonment, slavery, trafficking, child labour, and failures in equality and inclusion.

It applies to seafarers, fishers, workers in offshore oil and gas, and the tourism industry and extends to passengers, scientists, state officials on naval and coast guard vessels, migrants and refugees, and people involved in unlawful activities.

The Declaration is structured around the understanding that the protection of human rights at sea rests on four fundamental principles:

    • Human rights at sea are universal; they apply at sea, as they do on land.
    • All persons at sea, without any distinction, are entitled to their human rights.
    • There are no maritime specific reasons for denying human rights at sea.
    • All human rights established under both treaty and customary international law must be respected at sea.

    To find out more about the Declaration, visit:

    HFW is widely recognised as the world’s leading shipping and maritime law firm, and has been serving clients in the industry for more than 140 years.

    The firm has over 200 specialist shipping lawyers and more than a dozen mariners across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, advising clients on the full range of dry shipping, admiralty and crisis management, and transactional matters.

    HFW continued to strengthen its global practice with the hire of shipping, admiralty and marine insurance expert Ashwin Nair in Perth, and top-ranked shipping and offshore marine partners Robert Lawrence and Ian Chung in Dubai.

    Press Contact
    Chris Johnson
    Head of Communications