U.S. Navy and Coast Guard judge advocates travelled to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil for a subject matter expert exchange (SMEE), focusing on operational and international law, with Brazilian navy judge advocates on March 30.
Cmdr. James Hoffman, staff judge advocate, United States Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO)/ U.S. Fourth Fleet (USFOURTHFLT); Cmdr. Tom Jones, Office of the Judge Advocate General International Law Division (Code 10); U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Stephen DaPonte, Defense Institute of International Legal Studies; and Lt. Elan Ghazal, Deputy staff judge advocate, USNAVSO/ USFOURTHFLT, worked with nine Brazilian officers, including judge advocates assigned to the Maritime Task Force (MTF) for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Brazilian Naval Operations Command.
The idea for the exchange took root at an Operational Naval Committee meeting between USNAVSO and the Brazilian navy. As Brazil’s navy is increasing its role in international operations like MTF UNIFIL, the SMEE provided an excellent opportunity for judge advocates from both navies to discuss international operational law concepts and domestic law enforcement operations. In contrast to the U.S. Navy, the Brazilian Navy is responsible for domestic maritime law enforcement. The SMEE included a specific focus on military unmanned vessels, stateless vessels, and maritime interdiction operations.
Topics of particular interest to the Brazilian judge advocates included the U.S. position on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), enforcement of UNCLOS provisions as customary international, law and the U.S. division of domestic maritime law enforcement and international law between the Navy and Coast Guard. “The exchange provided an excellent opportunity to gain the perspective of our partner nation judge advocates on international law and build relationships which will enable future bilateral and multilateral exercises and operations,” said Hoffman.