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25 Int'l J. Marine & Coastal L. 209 (2010)
Treasure Hunters, Sunken State Vessels and the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage

handle is hein.journals/ljmc25 and id is 217 raw text is: THErISIA ritL~t~ f
MARINE
MARTINUS                                                             AND COASTAL
NIJHOFF                      The International Journal of              LAW
P U B L I S H E R s  Marine and Coastal Law 25 (2010) 209-236         bril.nil/estu
Treasure Hunters, Sunken State Vessels and the
2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of
Underwater Cultural Heritage
Mariano J. Aznar-G6mez*
Professor of Public International Law, Universitat Jaume I, Spain
Abstract
Two sets of quite related judicial decisions in the US, regarding in rem actions directed at sev-
eral Spanish State shipwrecks, have completed a new legal framework that must be kept in
mind not only for treasure-hunter companies and any other persons trying to gain any right
over the wrecks of sunken State vessels, but also for States trying to seek a clear interpretation
of the legal status of those vessels in current international law. These decisions might com-
plete the new legal layout given by the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of
Underwater Cultural Heritage, in particular giving full meaning to the 'without prejudice'
clause included in its Art. 2(8) relating to sovereign immunities and State vessels; they might
also ease future ratification of that Convention by reluctant States like the United Kingdom,
France or the United States.
Keywords
underwater cultural heritage; admiralty law; immunities of States; treasure hunters; sunken
State vessels; law of the sea
Introduction
On 2 November 2001 the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the
Underwater Cultural Heritage (the 'Convention' or the 'UNESCO Conven-
tion') was adopted.' On 2 January 2009 the Convention entered into force;
at the time of writing (February 2010), 31 States are parties to it.
* The author would like to thank Sarah Dromgoole, Ole Varmer and Tullio Scovazzi for
their most valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article. The views expressed are solely
those of the author, as are any errors. This article was prepared within the framework of the
R+D Project No. Pi lA2009-05 of the Universitat Jaume I.
1 41 International Legal Materials 40 (2002). For a complete analysis of the Convention
(including its drafting), see R. Garabello, La Convenzione UNESCO sulla protezione delpatri-
monio culturale subacqueo (Milan, 2004). See also S. Dromgoole, '2001 UNESCO Convention
on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage', 18 International Journal of Marine

@ Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010

DOI: 10.1163/157180910X12665776638623

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