Since 1967, the facility has been occupied by former radio broadcaster British Army Major Paddy Roy Bates; his associates and family claim that it is an independent sovereign state. External commentators generally classify Sealand as a micronation. It has been described as the world's best-known micronation. Sealand is not recognised as a sovereign state by any United Nations member. The United Kingdom has always asserted that Roughs Tower has always remained under its jurisdiction.
On 2 September 1967, the fort was occupied by Major Paddy Roy Bates, a British subject and pirate radio broadcaster, who ejected a competing group of pirate broadcasters. Bates intended to broadcast his pirate radio station Radio Essex from the platform.
In 1968, the Royal Navy entered what Bates claimed to be his territorial waters in order to service a navigational buoy near the platform. Michael Bates (son of Paddy Roy Bates) tried to scare the workmen off by firing warning shots from the former fort. As Bates was a British subject at the time, he was summoned to court in England following the incident. The court ruled that as the platform (which Bates was now calling "Sealand") was outside British jurisdiction, being beyond the then three-mile limit of the country's waters, the case could not proceed. In 1975, Bates introduced a constitution for Sealand, followed by a flag, a national anthem, a currency and passports.
In 1978, while Bates was away, the Prime Minister of Sealand, Professor Alexander G. Achenbach, and several German and Dutch citizens led by Paul Trevisan staged a forcible takeover of Roughs Tower, holding Bates' son Michael captive, before releasing him several days later in the Netherlands. Bates thereupon enlisted armed assistance and, in a helicopter assault, retook the fortress. He then held the invaders captive, claiming them as prisoners of war. Most participants in the invasion were repatriated at the cessation of the "war", but Achenbach, a German lawyer who held a Sealand passport, was charged with treason against Sealand, and was held unless he paid DM 75,000 (more than US$ 35,000). The governments of the Netherlands and Germany petitioned the British government for his release, but the United Kingdom disavowed all responsibility, citing the 1968 court decision. Germany then sent a diplomat from its London embassy to Roughs Tower to negotiate for Achenbach's release. Roy Bates relented after several weeks of negotiations and subsequently claimed that the diplomat's visit constituted de facto recognition of Sealand by Germany. Following his repatriation, Achenbach established a "government in exile" in Germany, in opposition to Roy Bates, assuming the name "Chairman of the Privy Council". He handed the position to Johannes Seiger in 1989 due to illness. Seiger continues to claim — via his website — that he is Sealand's legitimate ruling authority.
The claim that Sealand is an independent sovereign state is based on the following contentions:
In international law, the two most common schools of thought for the creation of statehood are the constitutive and declaratory theories of state creation. The constitutive theory was the standard nineteenth century model of statehood, and the declaratory theory was developed in the twentieth century to address shortcomings of the constitutive theory. In the constitutive theory, a state exists exclusively via recognition by other states. The theory splits on whether this recognition requires "diplomatic recognition" or merely "recognition of existence". No other state grants Sealand official recognition, but it has been argued by Bates that negotiations carried out by Germany constituted "recognition of existence". In the declaratory theory of statehood, an entity becomes a state as soon as it meets the minimal criteria for statehood therefore recognition by other states is purely "declaratory".
Constitution of the Principality of Sealand was instituted in 1974. It consists of a preamble and seven articles. The preamble asserts Sealand's independence, while the articles variously deal with Sealand's status as a constitutional monarchy, the empowerment of government bureaus, the role of an appointed, advisory senate, the functions of an appointed, advisory legal tribunal, a proscription against the bearing of arms except by members of a designated "Sealand Guard," the exclusive right of the sovereign to formulate foreign policy and alter the constitution, and the hereditary patrilinear succession of the monarchy. Sealand's legal system is claimed to follow British common law, and statutes take the form of decrees enacted by the sovereign. Sealand has issued passports and has operated as a flag of convenience state (see commercial and other operations) and it also holds the Guinness World Record for "the smallest area to lay claim to nation status". Sealand's motto is E Mare Libertas (From the Sea, Freedom). It appears on Sealandic items, such as stamps, passports, and coins and is the title of the Sealandic anthem. The anthem was composed by Londoner Basil Simonenko; it does not have lyrics.
Several dozen different Sealand coins have been minted since 1972. In the early 1990s, Achenbach's German group also produced a coin, featuring a likeness of "Prime Minister Seiger". Sealand's coins and postage stamps are denominated in "Sealand Dollars", which it deems to be at parity with the U.S. dollar. Sealand first issued postage stamps in 1969, yet no stamp issues have been made since the start of the 21st century and Sealand is not a member of the Universal Postal Union, therefore its inward address is a PO Box in the United Kingdom.
Sealand claims that its first official athlete was Darren Blackburn of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, who was appointed in 2003. Blackburn has represented Sealand at a number of local sporting events, including marathons and off-trail races. Sealand's official U-20 National Football team is coached by American high school soccer coach Rory Miller and is mostly composed of players from his current and recent past roster at Muhlenberg North High School in Greenville, Kentucky. Sealand also claims that mountaineer Slader Oviatt carried the Sealandic flag to the top of Muztagh Ata in 2004. Since 16 December 2007, the Yorkshire-based airsoft team "SART" (Sheffield Armed Response Team) represents the Principality at airsoft games as its national team. Also in 2007, Michael Martelle represented the Principality of Sealand in the World Cup of Kung Fu, held in Quebec City, Canada; bearing the designation of Athleta Principalitas Bellatorius (Principal Martial Arts Athlete and Champion), Martelle won two silver medals, becoming the first-ever Sealand athlete to appear on a world championship podium. Sealand is also represented at the Destination ImagiNation Global Finals by the team from Dobbs Ferry High School in Dobbs Ferry, New York. The team members carried the Sealand flag in the 2007 DI Global Finals Opening Ceremony, and plan to do so again at the 2008 event. Sealand has also just hosted a skateboarding event with Church and East Ltd.
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