Cruise ships are frequently referred to as “floating cities,” with their passengers having access to everything from movie theatres to swimming pools. And just like cities, cruise ships have crime. Kidnappings or homicides are rare, but vacationers at sea are at risk of some serious offences: most notably sexual assault.
The biggest difference between a crime committed on land and aboard a cruise ship is that there is no immediate law enforcement involvement. There’s the messy problem of jurisdiction which could be a mix of federal, local and foreign, since ships often sail under the flags of the other countries such as the Bahamas, Panama or Liberia.
A recent sexual assault case aboard a Mediterranean cruise ship (April 2019) highlighted that legal ambiguity when a Spanish judge released the detained suspect after the ship docked in Valencia. “The judge declared that Spain had no jurisdiction in the case because the alleged crime was said to have taken place in international waters, according to a report by the Spanish newspaper Levante”, writes Elisabeth Malkin from New York Times.
“If Spain cannot prosecute, then which country can?”
In this case, the suspect was detained aboard the MSC Divina, which flies a Panamanian flag and is in theory subject to Panama’s laws. In practice, the country may not have the resources to investigate crimes that take place far from its shores. “But other laws in place should have protected the victim”, said Aleksandra Ivankovic, the deputy director of Victim Support Europe, who spoke to New York Times.
However, Ms. Ivankovic warned that the Istanbul Convention and other European human rights protections, which are more broadly written than national laws, are not easy to implement. “Even assuming that the Spanish judge made a lawful decision in accordance with Spanish law, from the perspective of human rights guarantees, her rights as a victim of a terrible crime were not respected,” Ms. Ivankovic said. The Istanbul Convention on violence against women, a European treaty, should apply to the case, she said.
Read the full New York Times article by Elisabeth Malkin on: