Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For other meanings see Sealand (disambiguation).
| National motto: E mare libertas|
(Latin: From the sea, freedom)
|Sovereigns|| Prince and Princess|
Roy Bates and Joan Bates
|Head of Government||Prince Regent Michael Bates|
| Area|| 550 m² |
|Population||1 (Michael Bates; 2002)|
2 September 1967
|Currency||Sealand dollar pegged to USD|
The Principality of Sealand is a micronation that claims to be an independent sovereign principality, though it is not officially recognized as such by any member of the United Nations. If considered as a country, it is by far the smallest one on earth. It has a population that rarely exceeds five, and an inhabitable area of some 550 m².
Sealand occupies a structure that was created when a purpose-built World War II-era Royal Navy barge was towed to a position above Rough Sands sandbar in the North Sea and had its hold intentionally flooded. It is sited six miles (10 km) off the coast of Suffolk, England, at , and has been occupied since 1967 by the family of Paddy Roy Bates and their associates.
It is probably the world's best-known micronation, and although its "national" sovereignity and legitimacy is hotly contested by many, it is nevertheless sometimes cited in debates as an interesting case study of how various principles of international law are applied to a contested territory.
In 1942 during World War II, HMS Fort Rough was constructed in England as one of the Maunsell Sea Forts. It comprised a floating barge with a superstructure of two towers joined by a deck upon which other structures could be added. The barge was towed to a position above Rough Sands sandbar where its hold was intentionally flooded so that the hulk sank to a resting place on the sandbar. The structure now visible above the waterline is the superstructure of the vessel.
The facility was occupied by 150-300 Royal Navy personnel throughout World War II; however, after the war all personnel were evacuated and HMS Fort Rough was left derelict. On September 2, 1967, the fort was occupied by Paddy Roy Bates, a British subject and pirate radio broadcaster, who ejected a competing group of pirate broadcasters and claimed it as his own.
At that time, the United Kingdom claimed territorial waters of three nautical miles (5.6 km) from its coast, and therefore Roughs Tower was located in international waters, outside the territorial jurisdiction of any state. After taking legal advice, Bates declared the fortress to be an independent state, named it Sealand, and declared himself and his wife, Joan Bates, to be its sovereign rulers.
In 1968, Michael Bates was summoned to court as a result of an incident during which shots were fired at a British navy vessel in the vicinity of Sealand. According to some reports the vessel's occupants were intending to evict Bates from the fortress, while others state that they were simply attempting to repair a nearby navigation buoy. In delivering its decision on November 25, 1968, the court stated that because the incident occurred outside British territorial waters, the court possessed no jurisdiction to rule on the matter.
In 1978, while Bates was away, the "Prime Minister" he had appointed, Professor Alexander G. Achenbach, and several Dutch citizens staged a coup d'état, forcibly taking over Roughs Tower and holding his son, Michael, captive, before releasing him several days later in the Netherlands.
Bates thereupon enlisted armed assistance and, in a helicopter assault, retook the fortress. He then held the invaders captive, claiming them as prisoners of war. The Dutch participants in the invasion were repatriated at the cessation of the "war"; in contrast, Achenbach, a German citizen, was charged with treason against Sealand and imprisoned indefinitely. The governments of the Netherlands and Germany petitioned the British government for his release, but the United Kingdom disavowed all responsibility, citing the 1968 court decision.
Germany then sent a diplomat to Roughs Tower to negotiate for Achenbach's release, and after several weeks Roy Bates relented – subsequently claiming that the diplomat's visit constituted de facto recognition of Sealand by Germany. (Germany has not confirmed this interpretation.)
Following his repatriation Professor Achenbach established an "exile" government in Germany, in opposition to Roy Bates, assuming the title of "Chairman of the Privy Council". Upon Achenbach's resignation for health reasons in August 1989, the rebel government's "Minister for Economic Co-operation", Johannes Seiger, assumed control, with the position of "Prime Minister and Chairman of the Privy Council". Seiger continues to claim that he is Sealand's legitimate ruling authority.
For a period, Sealand passports were mass manufactured and widely sold (mostly to Eastern Europeans) by a Spanish-based group believed to be associated with the Seiger "exile government". These passports, which were not authorised by the Bates family, were involved in several high-profile crimes, including the murder of Gianni Versace. Due to the massive quantity in circulation (estimated at 150,000), in 1997 the Bates family revoked all of the Sealand passports that they themselves had issued in the previous thirty years.
The UK Government regulates communications and requires records from computer servers located on Sealand. Data transfer from Sealand has to be sent by the relatively slow method of satellite link to a member country of the United Nations where data is then inspected according to the laws of that country, mainly because Sealand is not recognized by ICANN as a country and it does not have its own separate identity from the United Kingdom. Attempts to establish unlicensed microwave links with the UK mainland have been severed, while attempts to start amateur radio transmissions using a non-UK licensed identity were stopped. Attempts to place unauthorized, non-UK buoys in the water were stopped and unregulated flights to Rough Tower were halted. All mail is delivered by the UK Post Office to an address on the UK mainland. The land underneath Rough Tower belongs to Crown Estate and therefore all activities are limited to those within or upon the sunken sea barge itself.
Sealand's claim that it is an independent state is founded on the following two propositions:
1. That when Paddy Roy Bates and his associates occupied Roughs Tower in 1967 it was located in international waters, outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom and all other sovereign states. Sealand claims de jure legitimacy on this basis.
2. That the actions of the UK government, and of other governments – specifically the government of Germany – in their interactions with Sealand constitute de facto recognition. Sealand claims de facto legitimacy on this basis.
One set of criteria for statehood under international law is defined by the Montevideo Convention. This asserts that a defined territory, permanent population, government and the capacity to enter into relationships with other sovereign states are the only foundation requirements for a sovereign state. As these criteria are commonly understood, a "permanent population" does not entail a population of any specific size, however, the character of that population is generally taken into account. Similar arguments apply with respect to the other three Montevideo Convention criteria – although it is unclear if man-made structures can, or were ever intended to constitute territory under the Convention's terms.
Another alternative legal argument against Sealand's statehood claims exists in the constitutive theory – a theory widely, but not universally accepted in international law. This states, contrary to the Montevideo Convention, that recognition by other states is a condition for statehood. Since no other state explicitly recognises the existence of the Principality of Sealand, Sealand is not a state under this theory's criteria.
Constitutive theory involves "recognition of existence" as opposed to "diplomatic recognition". For example, until recently Libya was not recognised diplomatically by the UK, but was acknowledged to exist, because the UK government undertook special measures to protect its citizens in that state and did not accept that any other state had sovereignty over the territory administered by Libya.
Since the 1968 UK court decision, the United Kingdom has extended its territorial sea to twelve nautical miles (22 km), which it had the legal right to do under international law since 1958. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea gave the right to the nearest neighbouring state to require consent before construction of any artificial island begins. However, Rough Tower was never constructed as an artificial island, it was constructed as a ship, floated into position and sunk. It therefore constitutes a maritime wreck which is why it is marked by buoys according to maritime law. Moreover, while this convention requires the neighbouring state to demolish or have removed any such artificial constructions immediately after use, because Rough Tower is technically a sunken ship it does not fall under that convention. According to this convention, there is no transitional law and no possibility to consent to the existence of a construction which was previously approved or built by the neighbouring state. This means that an artificial island can no longer be constructed and then claimed as a sovereign state, or as state territory for the purposes of extension of an exclusive economic zone or of territorial waters. However, since Rough Tower is not an artificial island but a sunken ship, HM Crown Estate which owns the land under the Rough Tower would have to be the complaining landlord to get the wreck removed from their property.
Sealand has also claimed the waters surrounding Roughs Tower , and it has claimed to have physically defended this claim on at least one occasion: In an incident in 1990, the Royal Maritime Auxiliary vessel Golden Eye was fired upon from Sealand. The vessel believed itself to be under attack, radioed the Thames Coastguard to that effect, and withdrew. It has been suggested that a man was later charged in a British court with this offense, however no court transcripts have been produced to verify this.
Although the UK has publicly asserted its authority over Roughs Tower , it appears to be government policy to refrain from comment or action except when forced. British Government documents, now available to the public under the 30 year expiration of confidentiality, show that the UK drafted plans to retake the fortress, but such plans were not implemented by then Prime Minister due to the potential for loss of life, and the creation of a legal and public relations disaster.
The Bates family
Irrespective of its legal status, Sealand is managed by the Bates family as though it were a recognised sovereign entity, and they, its hereditary, royal rulers.
Roy and Joan Bates have been referred to internally since the foundation of Sealand as "Their Royal Highnesses Prince Roy and Princess Joan of Sealand". Roy Bates is styled "Sovereign", and Joan Bates is sometimes described as being "in joint rule" with him. Their son is known as "His Royal Highness Prince Michael". Michael Bates has been referred to as the "Prince Regent" since 1999. In this role he apparently serves as Sealand's acting "Head of State" and also its "Head of Government". At a micronations conference hosted by the University of Sunderland on 25 November, 2004, Sealand was represented by Michael Bates' son James, who was referred to as "Prince Royal James".
Sealand's royals are all believed to retain UK citizenship, and the family has not been in permanent residence on the Roughs Tower facility since 1999. The facility is now occupied by one or more caretakers representing Michael Bates, who himself lives in Leigh on Sea, England. As Sealand is not a recognised country, the Bateses officially travel internationally as British citizens.
Sealand possesses a simple constitution, instituted in 1995, which consists of a preamble and seven articles. The preamble asserts Sealand's independence, while the articles variously deal with the Sealand's status as a constitutional monarchy, the empowerment of government bureaux, the role of an appointed, advisory Senate, the functions of an appointed, advisory legal tribunal, a proscription against the bearing of arms except by members of a designated "Sealand Guard", the exclusive right of the sovereign to formulate foreign policy and alter the constitution, and the hereditary patrilinear succession of the monarchy.
Current Sealand government bureaux are: the Bureau of External Affairs, the Bureau of Internal Affairs, and the Bureau of Posts Telecomms and Technology. Most of the organs of Sealand's government are apparently either inactive or operate outside of Sealand's territory itself. A Sealand State Corporation was chartered by Roy Bates and charged with the "development of the state" shortly after Sealand's foundation, but its current status and range of activities, if any, is unknown.
In the year 2000 worldwide publicity was created about the establishment of a new entity called HavenCo, a Data haven, which effectively took control of Rough Tower itself. According to the web site of Sealand, no other visitors or activities would be permitted. The original claim to the right to occupy Rough Tower was maintained by Michael Bates, son of Roy Bates who had removed himself from further daily involvement.
The chief of the Bureau of Internal Affairs said in a letter to a Wikipedia editor that the "Advocate-General" (a role not described in the constitution) "may call tribunals in appropriate circumstances". The Bureau of Internal Affairs apparently vets and registers qualified legal professionals to practise "Sealand law", although the level of frequency with which this occurs is unknown.
HavenCo Limited is a data hosting services company founded in 2000 which operates from Sealand. It was registered by Michael Bates through Companies House, a part of the UK Department of Trade and Industry, on August 22, 2000. Its registration number was 04056934, and its registered office was recorded as 11 Kintyre House, Cold Harbour, London, E14 9NL England. The directors were listed as Michael Roy Bates, who was named Chief Operating Officer, and Ryan Donald Lackey, a US citizen, born on March 17, 1979. Other founders included Sean and Jo Hastings and Avi Freedman . The company later relocated its registration to Cyprus.
HavenCo initially received broad coverage in the international media, appearing on the cover of Wired magazine, in over press 200 articles, and in several television reports. In these reports, HavenCo claimed to have established a secure colocation facility on Sealand, and that it had commenced operations as a data haven. Detractors claim that these reports gave the impression that HavenCo was registered on Sealand itself, and that the company would issue domain names under the authority of that entity, when in fact it had no entitlement to do so.
The company announced that it had become operational in December 2000 and that its Acceptable Use Policy prohibited child pornography, spamming, and malicious hacking - but that all other content was acceptable. It claimed that it had no restrictions on copyright or intellectual property for data hosted on its servers, arguing that as Sealand was not a member of the World Trade Organization or WIPO, international intellectual property law did not apply. Other services available from HavenCo at the time included IT consulting, systems administration, offshore software development, and electronic mail services.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks Lackey announced that the operation would block initiatives "contrary to international custom and practice." HavenCo claimed that it had experienced few difficulties with any foreign government or organization, although according to detractors, the British government "reacted quietly" by enforcing British laws concerning unlicensed data transmissions to and from Sealand, although it is unclear what is meant by this, and no evidence has been produced in support of these claims.
Ryan Lackey left HavenCo under acrimonious circumstances in 2001, citing disagreements with the Bates family over management of the company. HavenCo itself is still in operation, but the extent of its current business is unknown.
HavenCo resembles Neal Stephenson's fictional datahaven in the novel Cryptonomicon, and various details match up as well — an investor named Avi, location on an island, affiliation with cypherpunks, use of cryptography, etc. However, HavenCo was already in operation before the book was in wide circulation, and the concept of a data haven is a far older idea. The use of small islands as tax havens and flags of convenience is perhaps a hundred years old, and data havens claim to be an extension of that same theme.
Sealand first issued postage stamps in 1969, when a helicopter service was instituted to carry mail between Roughs Tower and Brussels, Belgium. A significant volume of mail carrying Sealand stamps and postmarks was accepted without surcharge and passed by Belgian postal authorities into the international postal system at this time, which seems to indicate that a formal arrangement of some sort existed between them and Sealand.
Although few stamp issues have been made since the 1960s, Sealand postage stamps and postal cancellations continue to be used on most if not all mail from the principality – although the actual volume of such mail is believed to be limited.
The United Kingdom's Royal Mail official policy is to stamp envelopes not bearing UK stamps with a 'revenue protection' cancel, in order to be able to claim postal carriage charges from the recipient – although recent examples exist of mail bearing Sealand stamps and cancellations, to the exclusion of all others, being transmitted through the international postal system.
Sealand publicises the following as its postal address: 'Sealand 1001; Sealand Post Bag, IP11 9SZ, UK'. The Royal Mail postcode is the one for Felixstowe near Ipswich, and the Royal Mail website gives the following standardised address: 'Sealand Fort, PO Box 3, FELIXSTOWE, IP11 9SZ, UK'.
Sealand is not a member of the Universal Postal Union, which regulates the sending of mail between countries, and its address is in what it claims is a foreign country. In a similar manner, mail for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus must be addressed to 'Mersin 10, Turkey'.
Sealand's stamps are generally classed as "locals" by most collectors; such stamps are valid for the carriage of mail between a location that lacks a regular postal service, and a location from which the onward transmission of such mail occurs.
Sealand's official currency is the "Sealand Dollar", which is maintained at parity with the U.S. Dollar. Several dozen different coins have been minted since 1972 in various units of this currency. Given Sealand's limited population, physical inaccessibility and lack of a large-scale economy it is unlikely that these coins were ever intended for use as circulating currency. Most were produced in precious metals, which have appeal to investors and coin collectors. In the early 1990s, the "exile" government also produced a coin, featuring a likeness of rebel "prime minister" Seiger.
- How to Start Your Own Country by Erwin S. Strauss, pub. Breakout Productions, Port Townsend, WA, 2nd ed. 1984, ISBN 1893626156
- "How a law-less 'data haven' is using law to protect itself" by Gary Slapper, The Times, August 8, 2000 p3
- "A Nation for Friend and Faux" by Marjorie Miller, Richard Boudreaux, Los Angeles Times June 7, 2000 pA-1
- "Welcome to Sealand. Now Bugger Off" by Simson Garfinkel, Wired Magazine, July 2000, Vol. 8.07.
- "Stop signs on the web; The battle between freedom and regulation on the Internet", The Economist, Jan 13, 2001 p1
- "Has 'haven' for questionable sites sunk?" - A News.com article from August 4, 2003
- Official website
- HavenCo Ltd.
- Archival Sealand website
- Website of Rebel Sealand Government
- National Anthem
- Alleged transcript of the 1968 UK court case
- Coins of Sealand – Complete catalogue of coins minted by Sealand.
- Meta Haven: Sealand Identity Project
- The Sea Forts – The history of Britain's World War II sea fortresses and their later use by 1960s pirate radio broadcasters.
- HMS Roughs - A skeptical legal analysis of Sealand.
- HMS Roughs/Sealand Movie - IMDB page for a forthcoming film about Sealand.
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