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Martin Ratcovich Leopardi

About me

I am a researcher and teacher in international law at the Faculty of Law, Stockholm University. My research interests include public international law in general and the international law of the sea, international refugee law and international human rights law in particular. I also have an interst in legal theory and especially critical legal theory.

I was awarded the Doctor of Laws degree (LL.D.) in September 2019 following the succesful defence of my doctoral thesis titled 'International law and Rescue of Refugees at Sea'. Fields covered include the law of the sea, international refugee law, international human rights law and international maritime law.

I have previosuly worked at the Government Offices of Sweden (Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defence) and the Swedish Coast Guard (Legal Section). I have also worked as a law clerk. I have participated in a wide range of international negotiations. I have also served as expert in several governmental inquiries for legislative review and preparation of new legislation, primarily in the maritime field.

I have a law degree (LL.M.) from the Faculty of Law, Lund University. I have also studied international environmental law and maritime law at the Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law, Faculty of Law, Oslo University, and at the World Maritime University (WMU). In 2008 I served as legal assistant to the Swedish member of the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC), Ambassador Marie Jacobsson.

I am a fellow of Stockholm Center for International Law and Justice (SCILJ) and member of the International Law Association (ILA) Committees' on International Law and Sea-Level Rise, and on Submarine Cables and Pipelines under International Law.

Teaching

I teach international law at the Faculty of Law, Stockholm University.

Research

My doctoral thesis examines the meaning of the concept of ‘place of safety’ against the background that many of those rescued at sea are refugees and migrants. Using a legal perspective, it asks how the meaning of this concept can be understood in the wider context of international law. Drawing on an explorative survey of the international legal framework for irregular maritime migration covering norms under the international law of the sea, international refugee law, international human rights law and international law against transnational organised crime and on a dedicated discussion of the applicable standard of interpretation, the thesis analyses the interpretation of the concept of ‘place of safety’. In keeping with the general legal framework of the interpretation of treaties, it explains that this concept cannot be understood with reference to the law of the sea exclusively, as it imports norms from other areas of international law. Due to the contribution of these other norms, including some of a primarily humanitarian character such as those dealing with non-refoulement, right to life and non-discrimination, the thesis argues that the meaning of the concept is broader than it first may seem. To conclude, the thesis summarises a ‘place of safety’ as a location where not only the maritime safety but also the basic security of survivors is no longer threatened.

Publications

A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • International Law and the Rescue of Refugees at Sea

    2019. Martin Ratcovich (et al.).

    Thesis (Doc)

    International law provides a duty to rescue everyone in distress at sea. Rescue at sea often entails recovering survivors and bringing them on board ships or other rescue units. While their subsequent delivery and disembarkation may not always be controversial, they frequently are if those assisted are refugees and migrants. Coastal states are especially likely to be reluctant to accept disembarkation within their territories if the distress situation and rescue operation occurred in the course of attempts to enter the coastal state in a clandestine or otherwise irregular way. The controversial but unavoidable question in such situations is where refugees and migrants rescued at sea shall be brought for disembarkation.

    Until recently, international law was strikingly silent in this regard. However, following amendments to the two main treaties on maritime search and rescue — the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue — international maritime rescue law now requires that everyone rescued at sea be delivered to a ‘place of safety’. The responsibility to provide such a place or to ensure that it is provided lies with the state party responsible for the search and rescue region in which the survivors were recovered. However, ‘place of safety’ is not defined in these or any other treaty. Instead, the application is guided by a set of guidelines from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). However, the guidelines are not legally binding and many questions remain unanswered.

    This thesis examines the meaning of the concept of ‘place of safety’ against the background that many of those rescued at sea are refugees and migrants. Using a legal perspective, it asks how the meaning of this concept can be understood in the wider context of international law. The emphasis on the legal context links to the applicable standard of interpretation, which requires the meaning to be determined with reference to not only the text but also the context and the object and purpose of the treaty.

    Drawing on an explorative survey of the international legal framework for irregular maritime migration covering norms under the international law of the sea, international refugee law, international human rights law and international law against transnational organised crime and on a dedicated discussion of the applicable standard of interpretation, this thesis analyses the interpretation of the concept of ‘place of safety’. In keeping with the general legal framework of the interpretation of treaties, it explains that this concept cannot be understood with reference to the law of the sea exclusively, as it imports norms from other areas of international law. Due to the contribution of these other norms, including some of a primarily humanitarian character such as those dealing with non-refoulement, right to life and non-discrimination, this thesis argues that the meaning of the concept is broader than it first may seem. To conclude, this thesis summarises a ‘place of safety’ as a location where not only the maritime safety but also the basic security of survivors is no longer threatened.

    Read more about International Law and the Rescue of Refugees at Sea
  • Extraterritorial Criminalisation and Non-intervention

    2019. Martin Ratcovich. Nordic Journal of International Law 88 (3), 398-428

    Article

    This article considers the limits of extraterritorial criminalisation under international law in the context of a recent legislative proposal by the government of Sweden to impose criminal measures against the purchase of sexual services abroad. The article first presents the proposal and then a specific legal objection raised against it, namely that allowing Swedish courts to try purchases committed abroad irrespective of local law is inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention under international law. The substance of this objection is discussed against the background of general descriptions of the concepts of jurisdiction and non-intervention under international law. It is concluded that the meaning of the principle of non-intervention may have been overstated.

    Read more about Extraterritorial Criminalisation and Non-intervention
  • Operation Sophia in Uncharted Waters

    2016. Graham Butler, Martin Ratcovich. Nordic Journal of International Law 85 (3), 229-253

    Article

    This article addresses the main legal challenges facing the European Union (EU) Naval Force, EUNAVFOR Med (‘Operation Sophia’), established in 2015, to disrupt human smuggling and trafficking activities in the Mediterranean Sea. It examines a number of legal issues that have given rise to scepticism on the viability of this type of operation, ranging from challenges under European Union law regarding mandate and oversight, to complex questions of compliance with international law. Forcible measures may be at variance with the international law of the sea, binding on the eu and its Member States alike. Even if such strictures can be avoided by a broad United Nations mandate and/or the consent of the neighbouring government(s), international refugee law and international human rights law provide limitations on the measures that Operation Sophia will be tasked with. Different avenues will be explored to ensure the Operation’s compliance with these different legal regimes.

    Read more about Operation Sophia in Uncharted Waters
  • Havsnivåhöjning, mänsklig säkerhet och folkrätt

    2019. Martin Ratcovich.

    Article

    Havet stiger och kommer att fortsätta att göra det under lång tid. Havsnivåhöjning är också en fråga av växande betydelse för det internationella samfundet – fler än 70 stater är eller förväntas bli direkt drabbade. Konsekvenserna för mänsklig säkerhet förmodas bli stora. Havsnivåhöjning väcker flera folkrättsliga frågor och lyfter behovet av ökad medvetenhet, helhetstänkande och institutionella lösningar.

    Read more about Havsnivåhöjning, mänsklig säkerhet och folkrätt
  • The Concept of ‘Place of Safety’

    2016. Martin Ratcovich. Australian Yearbook of International Law 33, 81-129

    Article

    International law requires that everyone rescued at sea shall be disembarked and delivered to a ‘place of safety’. However, neither the treaties that establish this requirement nor any other treaty define what is meant by ‘place of safety’. When refugees and migrants are rescued at sea considerations of international human rights law and international refugee law as well as of international law against transnational organized crime are of principal concern. This article examines the concept of 'place of safety' and argues that it needs to be interpreted in the wider context of international law, so that other relevant and applicable rules of international law are taken into account. The article provides an exploratory discussion of the interpretation of the concept of 'place of safety', seen particularly against the background that many of those rescued at sea are refugees and migrants. The article also comprises discussions of the duty to rescue those in distress at sea, the basic rules on interpretation of treaties and the legal framework for rescue of migrants at sea. The analysis is illustrated by references to Australian legislation, state practice and case law.

    Read more about The Concept of ‘Place of Safety’
  • Folkrätten, EU-rätten och flyktingarna på Medelhavet

    2016. Martin Ratcovich.

    Report

    Runt en miljon flyktingar och migranter upp­ges förra året ha sökt sig till Europa över Medel­havet. EU försöker allt­jämt hitta håll­bara lösningar på flykting­situationen, men vad gäller egentligen för hanteringen av flyktingar som befinner sig till havs? Vilket regel­verk styr exempel­vis EU-samordnade insatser som Operation Triton och Operation Sophia? I den här analysen redogör Martin Ratcovich för vad folkrätten och EU-rätten har att säga när det gäller flykting­strömmarna över havet. Fokus för analysen är den internationella havs­rättens regler om ingripande mot fartyg och sjö­räddning.

    Read more about Folkrätten, EU-rätten och flyktingarna på Medelhavet

Show all publications by Martin Ratcovich Leopardi at Stockholm University