The Guest Blog

Some of the world’s top experts on maritime and international law are meeting, for the first time, to discuss the establishment of an international court to try piracy cases. The focus is purely legal and certainly groundbreaking — nationally and internationally. It is also, very timely since pirate-seized ship stories have been in the news so often in recent months. Details of this interesting event have been sent to Blogactiv by the event organisers.

Cicero called pirates “hostis humani generis” or “enemies of mankind.” Accordingly, piracy became one of the first areas of international law, as it was the duty of states and their navies to deal with pirates. For over 2,000 years the military approach —by necessity always state-centric, ‘regional’ and episodic in nature— has prevailed… and, most would argue, failed.

Contemporary piracy has become harder to contain: although more than fifty percent of cases occur off the Horn of Africa, pirate crews thrive in waters as far away as Peru, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Bangladesh. Their loot now costs the global economy over $16 billion annually. Securing seamen —many who lose their lives as well as their cargo and vessels— has sent insurance premiums to untenable levels. The cost of doing business today includes ransom payments so high that after a single attack, a pirate ‘hand’ can float away with the equivalent of more than 100 years of expected income. And because many of the afflicted nations don’t have piracy laws, the few pirates that are captured are all too often released to start all over again.


• Can the crime of piracy be added to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC)? If so, what is the process for doing so?

• Given the politics around the 2010 ICC Review Conference (the possibility that the crime of aggression will be added to the ICC’s jurisdiction; the desire on the part of some to add terrorism), how likely is it that the ICC might try pirates in the near future?
• What are the advantages and disadvantages of using (third party) national governments to try apprehended pirates? How might universal jurisdiction work in practice with regard to the crime of piracy in the current era?
• What alternative governance options exist to prosecute pirates?
• What are the prospects for a special tribunal on piracy? How might this be established? By whom or under whose auspices? Through what processes? Who pays?


The workshop, organised by the One Earth Future Foundation and hosted by The American Society of International Law and The Academic Council on the United Nations, is bringing some of the world’s leading international and maritime law experts to assess the various options that exist in international law to prosecute pirates, including the International Criminal Court, the Law of the Sea Tribunal, a special tribunal, and national prosecutions.

WHEN: 17 October 2009

WHERE: American Society of International Law • Tillar House
2223 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

For more information on OEF and its various projects, please visit:

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