Legal Challenges and Responses
Edited by Douglas Guilfoyle
Chapter 6: Piracy and the international law of the sea
Although never absent from the international scene – one may recall attacks on ships carrying ‘boat people’ off the coasts of Southeast Asia – pirates seemed to have ceased to be a general menace to the international community justifying the traditional qualification of hostis humani generis, until the massive development of their activities off the coasts of Somalia, which started around 2000 and are still continuing. Contemporary piracy is not limited to Somalia. Recently, for instance, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has been the subject of the UN Security Council’s attention (further discussed in Chapter 4). Piracy in Southeast Asia has also been a source of international interest in recent years (as discussed in Chapter 2). However, during the last decade piracy in Somalia has been at the centre of international attention, originating legal development whose relevance may, in some cases, go beyond the specific situation off the coasts of Somalia. It therefore forms both an appropriate case study through which to examine the traditional law and also an example of the kind of specialized legal measures that may be taken to deal with specific instances of piracy. As the history of Somali piracy is covered in more detail in Chapter 3, only a brief account is required here. Capturing ships off the coast of Somalia and holding them and their crews for ransom has occurred since the 1990s. It was originally carried out by armed groups acting mostly in the territorial sea and claiming to protect Somalia’s fishing resources,
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