n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Combating maritime piracy : a regional framework for prosecution

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Maritime piracy presents a threat to trade and maritime activities, especially from the Somali coast, where the area in which piracy presents a threat has expanded in size to become impossible to effectively address through navy interventions only. Piracy incidents from Somalia have reduced, but pirates became more successful in terms of attacking selected targets which are more vulnerable. In general the question on what to do with a captured pirate has remained a valid one. Too often captured pirates are simply disarmed and released, instead of prosecuted. There are practical problems related to available evidence and distances involved. The number of prosecutions of pirates needs to be increased in order to be an effective deterrent. Prosecution in the region should be managed by the courts in countries with which particular memoranda of understandings have been concluded, and which have amended their legislation accordingly in order to receive pirates arrested by foreign navies. This has emerged as the preferable prosecution option. However, a very small percentage of the total current costs for combating piracy spent by the international community are allocated to capacity building and assisting countries which undertook to prosecute and imprison pirates which have been handed over. A much bigger international contribution is required towards these countries, in order to ensure an adequate capacity to prosecute and imprison captured pirates. Prosecution of pirates by arresting states, which have a direct interest to do so, must continue, but is not seen as the solution to the general lack of prosecutions. The implementation and extensive use of embarked officers or 'shipriders' placed on ships to bridge problems with evidence and jurisdiction should be promoted. The EU and the UNODC have contributed hugely to solving the problem and the present model of having a number of countries involved in the national prosecution of captured pirates is clearly the ideal solution to the problem. These efforts must, however, be strongly supported by an investment by the international community in the capacity of the countries involved, in order to avoid the impression that the international problem of piracy is dumped on the countries willing to prosecute pirates. In addressing prosecution capacity in states which have agreed to prosecute pirates, the issue of the protection of human rights also needs to be addressed.

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