From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Chicago Convention of 1944
Mains level : NA
A private commercial flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Minsk by a MiG-29 fighter jet of Belarus. The incident received considerable global attention.
How justified was Belarus in taking such a decision?
- The answer lies at the junction of Belarus’s domestic laws as a sovereign country and international laws governing the action that states can legitimately take to deal with threats to security, real or perceived.
- The issue of the use of military aircraft to neutralize potential threats posed by civilian aircraft acquired a different kind of urgency in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001.
- Generally speaking, international law grants sovereignty to nations over their airspace as it does in territorial waters.
The Chicago Convention of 1944
- The Convention on International Civil Aviation, better known as the Chicago Convention of 1944, to which Belarus is a signatory state, prohibits any unlawful intervention against a civilian aircraft.
- At the same time, it has various provisions under Article 9 which permit a sovereign state the right to impose restrictions.
- This includes enforced landings at a designated airport in its territory, in “exceptional circumstances or during a period of emergency, or in the interest of public safety”.
- Once a flight has landed, Article 16 provides the host country the right to board/search the aircraft.
- This is probably the clause that provided cover for the local authorities to board Mr. Morales’s aircraft in Austria in 2013.
- But the Chicago Convention applies only to civilian aircraft of the contracting parties.
Other such laws
- International law might also have to be examined in light of the International Air Services Transit Agreement (IASTA), also concluded in Chicago in 1944.
- According to this agreement, contracting states grant to one another the freedom of air transit in respect of scheduled international air services, that is, the privilege to fly across territories without landing.
- Belarus is not a signatory of IASTA.