Today in Legal History: Outer Space Treaty Enters into Force

The Outer Space Treaty entered into force on October 10, 1967.  As countries began exploring space, the international community felt it wise to set some ground rules.  The Outer Space Treaty, sponsored by the United Nations, provided that space is a commons, open to all; banned nuclear weapons in orbit; and prohibited military bases on the moon (scientific outposts are permitted).  The United States is a signatory to this treaty.  The Outer Space Treaty parallels the Law of the Sea in many important aspects, such as how property issues are settled.  The governing body is called UNOOSA.

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Russian Action on Adoptions May Thwart a Bilateral Treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed into law a bill which bans the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens. The Russian government’s action may portend the denunciation of a bilateral treaty on the subject which entered into force for both states on November 1, 2012. The U.S., which encouraged Russia to join the Hague Inter-Country Adoption regime, settled for the bilateral instrument in July of 2011. The termination language found in Article 17, clause 5, states that, “This agreement shall remain in force until one year from the date that one of the Parties informs the other Party through diplomatic channels of its intention to terminate this Agreement.” Whether this language affects Russia’s responsibilities under the treaty is unclear at this time. Read the treaty here.

New Rules for Carriage of Goods by Sea

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On September 23rd, the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the international Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea was opened for signature. Also known as the “Rotterdam Rules”, this body of law updates previous maritime transport laws including the Hague-Visby Rules and clarifies the liability for goods loaded on a stranded ship or for stolen or damaged cargo. The new rules also apply to the use of e-commerce in the maritime transport environment and now cover the entire carriage cycle including connecting transport by land or multimodal service. The United States is a convention signatory. This treaty will require the advice and consent of the Senate before it takes effect for shipping originating in the U.S. The treaty will enter into force after the instruments of ratification or accession are submitted by twenty states which some commentators speculate may be late in 2010.

Space, the Final Frontier

On the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, blogger Chris Borgen reminds us that there is a whole body of public international law devoted to outer space such as the Moon Treaty (1363 U.N.T.S. 3) and the Outer Space Treaty (G.A. Res. 2222 (XXI), 19 December 1966) among others. Even the International Space Station is subject to regulation under the International Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement (Agreement…Concerning Cooperation in the Civil International Space Station, State Dept No. 01-52). Read his entertaining summary on Opionio Juris.