UN Human Rights

Views of the UN Human Rights Committee, dated 14 December 2007, on Communication No. 1306/2004.

Association of Coastal Property Owners
(Samtök eigenda sjávarjarða)
PO Box 90,
780 Hornafjördur,
Iceland

The UN Human Rights Committee (The Commission for Human Rights),
Attn. Ruth Wedgwood, United Nations Human Rights Centre,
Palais des Nations, 8-14 Avenue de la Paix, CH-1211 Geneva 10,
Switzerland.

 

Reykjavík, Iceland, 22 January 2008.

Re: Views of the UN Human Rights Committee, dated 14 December 2007, on Communication No. 1306/2004.

Dear Sir / Madam,

The Association of Coastal Property Owners has received a copy of the Views of the UN Human Rights Committee, dated 14 December 2007, on Communication No. 1306/2004, concerning a complaint brought by two Icelandic fishermen against Iceland.

The Association welcomes the fact that this case came to the attention of the Committee, and is in agreement with the majority view of the Committee in most respects. However, there are some points to which it wishes to draw attention.

It would appear that the 18 committee members who were involved , or at least part of them, are under the impression that all the marine resources around Iceland are state-owned. This is not the case, as can be seen from the enclosed dokument. Part of these resources, lying in the net zone (netlög in Icelandic) are in private ownership. The net zone is a belt of the sea adjacent to the coast, extending out from the spring tide low-water mark. Being the shallow water closest to the land, this is one of the most fertile parts of the sea, and this is where, for example, fish fry develop into mature fish which later form the stocks from which catches are made, both in the net zone and in the outer part of the country’s fisheries jurisdiction. As the water and the living resources of the sea are in motion between the net zone, where private ownership applies, and the open sea, the resources form an unbroken continuum of common property, and parties must take each other’s rights into account. In all discussion of equality of rights in the context of these natural resources, it is necessary to give attention to the ownership rights of all concerned, including their employment rights.

Enclosed, please find an Advertisement, issued by the Association on 3 October 2003, which describes this situation in further detail.

The Icelandic government has, arbitrarily, without consultation with the lawful owners and without their consent, unlawfully appropriated this asset from the coastal property owners and made it over to its protégés. This entails the unlawful deprivation both of property and of the right of employment. The principle of equality has not been observed towards coastal property owners, neither as regards their right of employment nor their rights of ownership. In every respect, arbitrary procedures have been followed. The Icelandic Government has not respected the constitutional rights of its citizens, and the principle of equality has been violated. The owners of these rights no longer have control over them: they have been arbitrarily deprived of their property, in contravention of Article 17(2) of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This has been possible in the absence of effective monitoring of the Icelandic legal system by international institutions.

The Association of Coastal Property Owners in Iceland considers it necessary to bring these facts to the attention of the UN Human Rights Committee.

Copies of this letter have been sent to all 18 members of the UN Human Rights Committee who were involved in the Views adopted on the aforementioned Communication No. 1306/2004.

Yours sincerely,

On behalf of the Icelandic Association of Coastal Property Owners,

_________________________
Ómar Antonsson, Chairman.

Copies to:
The Althing’s Standing Committee on Fisheries, Alþingi, 150 Reykjavík.
The Althing´s Standing Committee on Agriculture, Alþingi, 150 Reykjavík.

Enclosed:
Advertisement by the Association of Coastal Property Owners, dated 3 October 2003.

Advertisement

concerning private ownership of the marine environment within the net zone and of a share of total marine resources

With reference to the fundamental principle of Icelandic law concerning the effects in law of declarations of protected status and legal registration (cf., for example, Chapters 16 and 17 of the Land Rent Section of the Jónsbók Law Code), and with reference to consistent judicial practice from times immemorial and the following references in enacted statutes, it is hereby announced:

  • Coastal property owners own a lawful share, in the marine resources and have a direct right of ownership to fish catches in the net zone; this is protected under Article 72 of the Constitution.
  • Coastal property owners have share-rights to fish catches in the fishing zone outside the net zone and in traditional fishing grounds that can be compared with common grazing rights and are thus of a legal nature as to enjoy protection under Article 72 of the Constitution.
  • Fishing, both far from and close to the property shore, and the right to utilize the fishing grounds, are also protected under Article 75 of the Constitution, these rights also being of a type concerning employment.
  • The sea and the sea-bed within the net zone are in many places important as hatchery and growth areas, and are often frequented by large numbers of fish. The living species and the sea inside and outside the net zone constitute one mobile and undivided whole. This confirms the private ownership share pertaining to coastal properties in the common property of the Icelandic people named in Article 1 of the Fisheries Management Act.

From times immemorial, coastal properties in Iceland have owned a share in the resources of the sea. This ownership share is based on the “net zone,” a zone extending into the sea from the land which is in private ownership (cf. for example Chapter 3 of the Drift Rights section of the law code Jónsbók of 1281, Article 3 of the Decree on Fishing in Iceland of 20th June 1849, Article 1 of the Act No. 39/1914 on bait-collecting, Articles 4 and 5 of the Lakes Act, No. 15/1923, Articles 14, 72, 77 and 96 of the Salmon and Trout Fishing Act, No. 76/1970, Articles 1 and 2 of the State Ownership of the Resources of the Seabed Act, No. 73/1990, Article 1 of the Bird Hunting Act, No. 64/1994, Articles 1 and 2 of the Study and Exploitation of the Resources of the Earth Act, No. 57/1998 and Article 1 of the Prospecting, Investigation and Exploitation of Hydrocarbons Act, No. 13/2001).

Iceland’s economic zone, which is measured from the land, most of which is privately owned, also extends over the net zone; thus, the private ownership rights of coastal properties are included in the economic zone (cf. Article 1 of the Icelandic Economic Zone Act, No. 41/1979). The sea and the living resources in the net zone are the property of the owners of the coastal properties. The most fertile part of the sea is in the net zone, and the living resources, together with the sea itself, move without obstruction in and out of the net zone and the outer region which is under the control of the state. In addition to this, the coastal properties have an ancient right of economic activity, i.e. of fishing from their land, which is recorded in the land register records, and also whaling rights. Thus, the Icelandic state does not have full right to dispose of undivided resources.

Reference is made to the fact that the Fisheries Management Act has resulted in a unilateral denial of coastal property owners’ rights to make use of the rights they own, without full compensation having been paid as provided for under Article 72 of the Constitution and without reference to considerations of nature conservation or other satisfactory legal reasons applying for the setting of restrictions to the right of ownership.

Reykjavik, 3rd October 2003.

Association of Coastal Property Owners

Ómar Antonsson

 

The letter was sent to:

Maurice Blélé-Ahanhanzo, Benin.
Abdelfattah Amor, Tunisia.
Prafullachandra Natwarlai Bhagwati, India.
José Luis Sanchez-Cerro, Peru.
Christine Chanet, France.
Michael O´Flaherty, Ireland.
Yuji Iwasawa, Japan.
Walter Kalin, Switzerland.
Ahmed Tawfik Khalil, Egypt.
Rajsoomer Lallah, Mauritania.
Edwin Johnson Lopez, Ecuador.
Zonke Zanele Majodina, South Africa.
Iulia Antoanessa Motoc, Rumania.
Elisabeth Palm, Sweden.
Rafael Posada, Colombia.
Sir Nigel Rodley, United Kingdom.
Ivan Shearer, Australia.
Ruth Wedgwood, United States of America.