While the law is crystal clear around many topics, there are some legal gray areas, especially when it comes to international spaces. From international embassies located on land to the aircraft that fly in international airspace and the vessels that sail through international waters, application of laws can be confusing. Keep in mind these three unique legal gray areas and the common ways in which they are handled.
Airspace is controlled by the nation owning the land or controlling the waters under it. In general, a country owns airspace and water space about 12 nautical miles from its coastline. For international waters such as the open Pacific Ocean, there are some legal gray areas. While the United States provides air traffic control services to the open Pacific Ocean, it cannot necessarily apply its laws to what happens in an airplane over those same waters. In case of a dispute over international airspace, cases may be heard in international courts.
Maritime law is another legal gray area. In the United States, maritime disputes must be handled by the federal court system. These cases may include claims against a vessel. If another vessel crashed into yours or caused you bodily injury or damaged your property, you will need to find a special lawyer or Maritime Law Center to take the case on in federal court. Other disputes, such as fishing rights and environmental concerns are usually handled by the federal court of the nation controlling those waters.
International embassies are governed by diplomatic law. Diplomatic laws are a part of agreed upon international law, which is a set of standards enacted by the United Nations. These customary laws are recognized as a matter of practicality and are administered under reciprocity. If an illegal act takes place at an international embassy, diplomatic immunity may be employed. While the diplomat may avoid prosecution under the law for the nation where the embassy is located, the sending country may choose to prosecute the diplomat. The sending country can also revoke the diplomat’s status, allowing the hosting country to initiate prosecution.
There are many legal gray areas when it comes to international relations, sharing air or water space and maintaining order. In many situations, nations are able to work out mutually agreeable conditions for such interactions. When two or more nations interact and do not have the same laws around the matter, international courts may have to settle the dispute.
This article is from Brooke Chaplan, a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.