Law of the Sea would subject U.S. navy seizures of foreign ships suspected of terrorism to an international tribunal
Take the question of suspects captured in Afghanistan--and the few captured elsewhere who have been brought to Guantánamo. Are they prisoners of war, covered by the 1949 Geneva Convention on this subject? The U.S. position is that such unlawful combatants--those who do not fall within the categories set out in the convention--are neither legitimate prisoners of war nor need they be treated as criminal suspects, who (according to international human rights conventions) must be either prosecuted or released.
The Bush administration has sought, in various ways, to mollify critics of its detention policy. Congress and the Supreme Court have insisted on certain legal safeguards and may ultimately demand more. But would we like the matter to be settled for us, all at once, by an international tribunal?
That is exactly what the Law of the Sea treaty would do: If we seize and detain a foreign ship and/or its crew, we must arrange some form of international arbitration within 10 days or the Law of the Sea tribunal will have jurisdiction to hear appeals for "prompt release." It has heard about one case a year in this category, since it got organized in the late 1990s and has never encountered a case in which it regarded further detention as justified. So, if we commit to this treaty, we will commit to having ITLOS review any seizures made at sea.