How ‘piracy’ in aviation in Belarus was in violation of international law

The forced diversion of a plane through Belarus to arrest dissident journalist Roman Protasevich has sparked outrage. Jowharlooks at exactly how it has violated international law and what could be done about it.

The forced rerouting of a flight between two EU members, Greece and Lithuania, operated by Irish airline Ryanair, caused anger among Western politicians.

The Republic of Ireland strongly condemned the forced flight diversion, with Secretary of State Simon Coveney telling public broadcaster RTE that “this was in fact state-sponsored aviation piracy”.

Ahead of an EU meeting to discuss Belarus’ act later on Monday, Coveney warned that “we cannot allow this incident to pass on the basis of warnings or strong press releases; I think the sanctions that are applied on this should be really tough ”.

Belarus’s act may be in violation of the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the UN’s International Civic Aviation Agency (ICAO) warned. The forced diversion of the plane through Belarus was “contrary to the rules of international law,” the International Air Transport Association said in a statement.

Lithuania was the first country to take concrete action, ordering all flights to and from its airspace on Monday afternoon to avoid Belarusian airspace.

Jowhardiscussed the legal implications of the forced diversion with Marco Roscini, professor of international law at the University of Westminster.

What international laws were violated in the flight diversion in Belarus?

Article 1 of the Chicago Convention states that a state “has full and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace over its territory”. When flying over a state’s national airspace, civil aircraft are under the full jurisdiction of that state and can be intercepted and ordered to land at the designated airport. However, Article 3a (a) of the Chicago Convention also provides that “in the event of interception, the lives of persons on board and the safety of aircraft shall not be endangered”.

So the interception by the military jet and the diversion of the plane to a more distant airport could have potentially endangered the safety of crew and passengers – this will have to be determined by an impartial investigation. Appendix 2 to the Chicago Convention also states that interception should only take place as a last resort, so the question is whether the Belarusian authorities first filed for the plan to land (which I’m not sure) or whether they have the military jet sent directly. away.

Regarding the false bomb threat claimed by Belarus as the reason for the interception, Article 1 of the 1970 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Civil Aviation Safety (ratified by Belarus) states that “a person is a crime commits if he unlawfully and intentionally … communicates information he knows is false, endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight “. Under Article 10 of the Montreal Convention, a state must take “all practical measures” to prevent the commission of these and other acts. If the crime is nevertheless committed, the state must “facilitate the continuation of the journey of passengers and crew as soon as possible”. Thus, under this provision, Protasevich should be allowed to proceed to Vilnius.

To what extent does this set a worrying precedent for dissidents traveling through the skies of countries that are hostile to them?

It sets a worrying precedent for dissidents – which is why it is important for Belarus to face the legal ramifications of committing the tort and provide full redress.

The flight diversion is on the agenda of today’s EU meeting, but sanctions have not been really effective in enforcing international law in the past. How can international aviation law be enforced if countries like Belarus do such things?

In addition to sanctions, there may be another remedy. Under Article 84 of the Chicago Convention, disagreements between States Parties regarding the interpretation or application of the Convention and its Annexes may decide by the ICAO Council on the application of any State concerned (Republic of Ireland – where Ryanair is located). ? Poland – the state of registration of the aircraft? The states of nationality of the passengers?).

The decision may be appealed to an ad hoc arbitral tribunal agreed with the other parties to the dispute or to the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague. However, sanctions will still be important to enforce decisions or sentences if Belarus refuses to comply.

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