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Principality of Sealand turns 54 today

Sealand has been described as the world’s smallest country, it is not recognised by any sovereign state. Now run by Roy Bates’ son Michael Bates, it is being used as a base for internet servers and other business ventures.

The Principality of Sealand is located on HM Fort Roughs, a former Second World War Maunsell Sea Fort in the North Sea 13 kilometres (7 nmi) off the coast of Suffolk, England, United Kingdom.[6][8]


Since 1967 the facility has been occupied by family and associates of Paddy Roy Bates, who claim that it is an independent sovereign state.[6] Bates seized it from a group of pirate radio broadcasters in 1967 with the intention of setting up his own station at the site.[9] He established Sealand as a nation in 1975 with the writing of a constitution and establishment of other national symbols.[6] Bates moved to mainland Essex when he became elderly, naming his son Michael regent. Bates died in 2012 at the age of 91.[10]

While it has been described as the world’s smallest nation,[11] or a micronation,[12] Sealand is not currently officially recognised by any established sovereign state. Although Sealand’s government claims it has been de facto recognised by the United Kingdom (after an English court ruled it did not have jurisdiction over Sealand as territorial water limitations were defined at the time)[6] and Germany (see below), neither action constitutes de jure recognition.

History of HM Fort Roughs

In 1943, during the Second World War, HM Fort Roughs was constructed by the United Kingdom as one of the Maunsell Forts,[13] primarily for defence against German mine-laying aircraft that might be targeting the estuaries that were part of vital shipping lanes; it comprised a floating pontoon base with a superstructure of two hollow towers joined by a deck upon which other structures could be added. The fort was towed to a position above the Rough Sands sandbar, where its base was deliberately flooded to allow it to sink to its final resting place on the sandbar. The location chosen was approximately 7 nautical miles from the coast of Suffolk, outside the then three-mile territorial water claim of the United Kingdom and therefore in international waters.[13] The facility (called Roughs Tower or HM Fort Roughs) was occupied by 150–300 Royal Navy personnel throughout World War II; not until well after the war, in 1956, were the last full-time personnel taken off HM Fort Roughs.[13]

Occupation and establishment

Royal Standard of the Prince of Sealand.

On 2 September 1967, the fort was occupied by Major Paddy Roy Bates, a British subject and pirate radio broadcaster, who ejected a competing group of pirate broadcasters.[9] Bates intended to broadcast his pirate radio station, Radio Essex, from the platform.[14]

In 1968, British workmen entered what Bates claimed to be his territorial waters in order to service a navigational buoy near the platform. Michael Bates (son of Paddy Roy Bates) tried to scare the workmen off by firing warning shots from the former fort.

As Bates was a British subject at the time, he was summoned to court in England on firearms charges following the incident.[15] But the court ruled that as the platform (which Bates was now calling “Sealand”) was outside British jurisdiction, being beyond the then three-mile limit of the country’s waters,[16] the case could not proceed.

In 1975, Bates introduced a constitution for Sealand, followed by a flag, a national anthem, a currency and passports.[17]

In August 1978, while Bates and his wife were in England, Alexander Achenbach, who describes himself as the Prime Minister of Sealand, hired several German and Dutch mercenaries to spearhead an attack of Roughs Tower.[18]

They stormed the tower with speedboats, jet skis and helicopters, and took Bates’ son hostage. Bates was able to retake the tower and capture Achenbach and the mercenaries. Achenbach, a German lawyer who held a Sealand passport, was charged with treason against Sealand[18] and was held unless he paid DM 75,000 (more than US$35,000 or £23,000).[19] The governments of the Netherlands, Austria and Germany petitioned the British government for his release, but the United Kingdom disavowed his imprisonment, citing the 1968 court decision.[6] Germany then sent a diplomat from its London embassy to Roughs Tower to negotiate for Achenbach’s release. Roy Bates relented after several weeks of negotiations and subsequently claimed that the diplomat’s visit constituted de facto recognition of Sealand by Germany.[18]

Following his repatriation, Achenbach and Gernot Pütz established a “government in exile“, sometimes known as the Sealand Rebel Government, or Sealandic Rebel Government, in Germany.[18] Achenbach’s appointed successor, Johannes Seiger, continues to claim via his website that he is Sealand’s legitimate ruling authority.[20]

Post-1990 history

Sealand several months after the fire

  • 1997: Because of the massive number of passports that had not been issued by Sealand in circulation (estimated at 150,000),[6] the Bates family revoked all Sealand passports, including those that they themselves had issued over the previous twenty-two years.[18]
  • 2006: On the afternoon of 23 June 2006, the top platform of the Roughs Tower caught fire due to an electrical failure. A Royal Air Force rescue helicopter transferred one person to Ipswich hospital, directly from the tower. The Harwichlifeboat stood by the Roughs Tower until a local fire tug extinguished the fire.[21] All damage was repaired by November 2006.[22]
  • In January 2007, The Pirate Bay attempted to purchase Sealand after harsher copyright measures in Sweden forced them to look for a base of operations elsewhere.[23]
  • 2007–2010: Sealand was offered for sale through the Spanish estate company InmoNaranja.[24][25] The asking price is €750 million (£600 million, US$906 million).[24][26][27]
  • 2012: Sealand online casino is expected to be opened by late 2012.[28]
  • 9 October 2012: Roy Bates, Prince of Sealand, died after suffering Alzheimer’s disease for several years. He was succeeded by his son Michael.[10][29][30][31][32][33]

Legal status

The claim that Sealand is a recognized independent sovereign state is based on an interpretation of a 1968 decision of an English court, in which it was held that Roughs Tower was in international waters and thus outside the jurisdiction of the domestic courts.[34]

Map of Sealand and the United Kingdom, with territorial water claims of 3 NM and 12 NM shown.

In international law, the two most common schools of thought for the creation of statehood are the constitutiveand declaratory theories of state creation. The constitutive theory was the standard nineteenth-century model of statehood, and the declaratory theory was developed in the twentieth century to address shortcomings of the constitutive theory. In the constitutive theory, a state exists exclusively via recognition by other states. The theory splits on whether this recognition requires “diplomatic recognition” or merely “recognition of existence”. No other state grants Sealand official recognition, but it has been argued by Bates that negotiations carried out by Germany constituted “recognition of existence”. In the declaratory theory of statehood, an entity becomes a state as soon as it meets the minimal criteria for statehood. Therefore recognition by other states is purely “declaratory”.[35]

In 1987, the UK extended its territorial waters from three to twelve miles. Sealand now sits inside waters that Britain claims as its territory.[36] The United Kingdom is one of 165 parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (in force since 1994), which states in part V, article 60, that: “Artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf.”[37] In the opinion of law academic John Gibson, “because Sealand was man-made there was little chance that it would be recognized as a nation.”[36]

Read more here : http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Principality%20of%20Sealand

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