The right to perform rescue at sea: Jurisprudence and drowning

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Framing largescale migrant drownings as violations of international law has so far not been a straightforward task. The failures of doing so, both in scholarship and in activism, have often revealed important limitations of international law, and a form of rightlessness that is hard-wired in it. Through an assessment of arguments about drowning, framed in the vocabularies of the right to life, refugee law, the law of the sea, and international criminal law, difficulties surrounding the notion of jurisdiction persist: The maritime space has often functioned as a kind of "legal black hole."Considering such difficulties, this Article suggests that shifting the focus from migrant rights to the civil and political rights of volunteers coming to the rescue, may help in closing the accountability gap. It thus seeks to articulate and conceptualize a form of maritime civil disobedience among rescue volunteers, which may provide the link for eliminating migrant rightlessness at sea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-619
Number of pages22
JournalGerman Law Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Civil and political rights
  • Jurisprudence
  • Migration
  • Refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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