Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It's about time that piracy make it back into the news. Recently, Somalian pirates made a slash by hijacking a Saudi Arabian supertanker.
Kenneth Anderson of Opinio Juris (a blog focused on international law) points out that this is a good chance for president Obama to show our mettle enforcing international law on the high seas.
# One is to act in a way to demonstrate that the operation is a military one within the traditional law of the sea responding to piracy - one fights and detains any who survive in order to prosecute, but the operation is not law enforcement as such. (And the law used to prosecute could usefully be the traditional law of piracy - common enemies of humanity, etc.)
# Second, the US can demonstrate the traditional US commitment to the rule of international law on the high seas and freedom of the seas.
# Third, it can act with allies and friends - India, for example - to create patrols and the reinforcement of multilateral sovereign duties; many countries find their vessels and interests at stake here. It might even manage to re-acquaint the British government with its international law obligations, by making clear through joint declarations of states undertaking patrols that asylum is not an option.
# Fourth, it might even find a way that the US could support the ICC without triggering the usual issues for the US, by sending (or at least opening discussions on sending) captured pirates to trial at the ICC.

One of the odd things I took from the post: Britain is currently ignoring the pirates because they're worried the pirates would claim asylum in Britain. Captured pirates could be beheaded (for murder) or have their hands chopped off (for theft) under Islamic were they sent back to their country of origin, hence they could plausible make claims for asylum.

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