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The Case for an International Piracy Court

We have at several occasions here on International Law Observer raised the question of whether or not an international (ad hoc) court (could/) should be established to try pirates (see for example here, here, here and here). On Tuesday (27. April) the UNSC unanimously adopted a resolution in which a next and important step in this direction was taken. According to UNSC Res 1918(2010) the UN Secretary General was called upon to present within 3 months

a report on possible options to further the aim of prosecuting and imprisoning persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, including, in particular, options for creating special domestic chambers possibly with international components, a regional tribunal or an international tribunal and corresponding imprisonment arrangements […] (Emphasis added.)

It is interesting to note that the resolution in no way refers to the qualification of pirates as a threat to international peace and security; thus it is unlikely that the legal basis for the establishment of any future international tribunal (if it is indeed recommended by the UNSG that such a tribunal is created) would be similar to that used in the establishment of the ad hoc criminal tribunals, i.e. chapter VII UNC. Perhaps we will see the recommendation that an ad hoc tribunal similar to that for Sierra Leone should see the light of day, namely a ‘treaty-based sui generis court of mixed jurisdiction and composition’ (UN Doc S/2000/915, para. 9). A cheaper variant would probably be the creation of special domestic chambers with international components in the form of international judges or the application of a special set of substantive law. Lets wait and see what the UNSG proposes in the next 3 months. Besides a number of interesting legal questions that make the different options more or less attractive in view of the experience with the existing ad hoc criminal tribunals and hybrid courts, there are surely a number of political considerations that have a decisive impact on the proposals to be made by the UNSG.

One Comment

  1. Cindy Speaker Cindy Speaker 6 October 2010

    The idea of pirates sounds silly, but I guess its a serious issue!

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