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States Must Respect 'Geographic Constraints,' Prof. Oxman Tells Korea Conference on Law of the Sea

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Professors Dennis Lynch and Bernard H. Oxman last fall at Miami Law.

Professors Dennis Lynch and Bernard H. Oxman last fall at Miami Law. (Photo: Nick Madigan/Miami Law) Full-Size Photo

The key to a successful law covering the use of the oceans, and the delineation of countries' maritime borders, is an instrument that is accepted as legally binding by all those who govern at sea, Miami Law professor Bernard Oxman told a conference on the Law of the Sea in Yeosu, Korea, on Sunday.

Professor Oxman, who has served as a judge ad hoc of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, gave a lecture titled "The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as a Constitution for the Oceans" at the conference, which commemorated the 30th anniversary of the document's adoption by more than 160 nations.

Over the long term, Professor Oxman told the conference attendees in Korea, the stability of the accord "can be ensured only if the convention, like most constitutions, establishes a system of governance that is flexible enough to respond to new circumstances, new knowledge, and new priorities in a manner that is consistent with and strengthens the underlying constitutional order."

He said that among the most important and effective aspects of the convention are the compulsory dispute settlement provisions, which "ensure that states respect the geographic and substantive constraints on their jurisdiction."

The conference at the World's Fair in Yeosu was co-sponsored by the United Nations' Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, and the Korea Maritime Institute, in cooperation with the Organizing Committee of Expo 2012.

Professor Oxman, the Richard A. Hausler Professor at Miami Law, joined the faculty in 1977 and teaches conflict of laws, international law, law of the sea, and torts. He also directs the law school's masters program in ocean and coastal law. The University of Miami has twice recognized his accomplishments, first with the Provost's award for scholarly activity, and more recently with the Faculty Senate's Distinguished Faculty Scholar award. In addition to his duties with maritime law tribunal, he has also served as judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the first American to be appointed to both panels.

Before coming to Miami, Professor Oxman served on active duty in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Navy, earning the Navy Commendation Medal, and then as Assistant Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State, where he represented the United States in its negotiations on the Law of the Sea. He is a member of the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations.