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Murderer found on cruise 13 years after escape

The Local · 4 Sep 2012, 08:27

Published: 04 Sep 2012 08:27 GMT+02:00

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“That was a mistake,” said police spokesman Gerhard Stelke.

German authorities checking the manifest of the MCS Poseia cruise ship coming from Norway to Kiel, found his name on the list, and moved in on Saturday to arrest him.

The 65-year-old had deliberately not left the ship in Kiel, thinking that because it had a foreign flag, he was on foreign territory.

He received a quick international law lesson when the German police took him away, explaining that they did in fact have jurisdiction.

The man, an Austrian, was convicted 13 years ago in Essen of murder, robbery and breaking gun laws, and sentenced to life in prison. How he escaped was not revealed on Monday – but authorities took him to Kiel jail.

Story continues below…

DPA/The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:23 September 4, 2012 by William Thirteen
hmm, good to know. then again, cruise ships are a bore anyway.
10:27 September 4, 2012 by Morseman
This is an interesting technical point in international law. I too thought the nationality of a ship was that country's sovereign territory. Way back in my childhood, I remember reading of a British merchant ship's captain who had two Danish deserters from the French Foreign Legion on board. When the ship docked at a French Indochina port, the captain stood at the gangway with a revolver to prevent French gendarmes from boarding to arrest the Danes. Does anyone know the legal position?
11:00 September 4, 2012 by wood artist

I took a quick look at Wiki..."Flag of convenience"...and it seems to say this:

Owners can register a ship under a "flag of convenience" which means the owner doesn't have to register in the country where he/it operates. It does a couple things. First, it is usually done to save money, since ships are often registered where labor and safety regulations are more lax. Also, the ship operates under the maritime laws of that country. However, it does not make the ship sovereign territory such as would be the case with an official embassy or consulate (see Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London).

It also has an additional "benefit" in that the real owner of the ship can remain anon in most cases, simply forming a dummy corporation in the State of the flag chosen.

Since it's in a German port it would be subject to the local civil laws in everything except issues specifically relating to maritime law, i.e. piracy. Even then it might be subject to local statutes if the crime happened while the ship was in port. In this case, it looks like German police would have had an outstanding warrant for this guy, and could easily board the ship while it was in port.

Maybe he should have checked Wiki before deciding to take a cruise. Since he couldn't get off in Germany (and apparently knew that) I'm not sure why he took the cruise anyway. The warrant would likely have been valid anywhere in the EU if it was filed properly.

23:19 September 4, 2012 by nemo999
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, basically says that if a ship is passing through a nations territorial waters, a commercial vessel cannot be stop and a criminal investigation or arrest cannot take place, this is called "Innocent Passage". But if the ship is stopping at a Port or Roadstead in that nations territorial water, then is not an "Innocent Passage", and the vessel and it crew and passenger are bound by local laws and regulations. There are certain notification requirements to be made to the ships Flagging country, but in many cases these are perfunctitory.

Given that the vessel did dock in Germany, it would be bound by German Law while in Port. German Law enforcement in all of the various colors (Coast Guard, Immigration, Zoll, Public Health, Federal, State, or Local police have the write to board and inspect the vessel, crew, passengers, and cargo, since the vessel is no longer meeting the definition of "Innocent Passage".

Innocent Passage can be revoked if the vessel is observed by local authorities to have committed a crime (pollution, illegal fishing, damaging navigational aids, fail to render aid to a distressed vessel, collision with another vessel, damaging under water cables or pipelines ...).

Our dear friend was screwed the moment he stepped on board the vessel, it was just a matter of time until the vessel dock, or stopped in port. I hope that he had an enjoyable trip while it lasted.
09:36 September 5, 2012 by Morseman
Comments #3 and 4:

Thank you for the research and info.

In any case, the cruise line would not have wanted to offend the German authorities. If they had been shown documentary evidence that the passenger was an escaped criminal, they would surely have put him ashore...
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