The prosecution of Somali pirates has gone global. Today, ten nations on four continents have convicted Somalis who were involved in the epidemic of piracy and armed robbery at sea which began in 2008, and at least six other nations have cases pending. Any nation can arrest suspected pirates on the high seas—piracy is the oldest international crime—yet international law defines only the crime, not the penalty. As a result, the current piracy prosecutions have led to a massive cross-national variance in both actual and possible punishments.
This paper explores the staggeringly high costs of the crises response rather than the crises prevention approach by looking at the case of Somalia. The research tries to determine, using a variety of official and unofficial sources and some educated guesswork, a reasonable estimate of the financial cost of Somali's conflict since 1991.
Maritime Piracy is now a pressing global issue, and this work seeks to provide a concise and informative introduction to the area. Never truly having receded into a romanticized past, seaborne banditry’s rapid growth was stimulated by low risks and increasingly high rewards. Currently, obsolete, incomplete and complicating structures and norms of governance, together with advances in technology, enable a lucrative business model for pirates, as they effectively operate with impunity and claim increasing ransoms.
Maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia continues to spiral into an increasingly threatening international crisis, with attacks in the Gulf of Aden increasing during the first half of 2011. While more states have been prosecuting pirates in their national courts during the last year, United Nations officials have indicated that as many as 90 percent of pirates captured by national navies are subsequently released due to complicated legal and financial burdens associated with prosecution.
Thousands of seafarers have been subjected to gunfire, beatings, confinement, and in some cases torture, in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. In spite of the violent nature of these crimes, the human cost of piracy is under-reported and misunderstood by the public. The Oceans Beyond Piracy Working Group, deeply concerned with the reports of escalating violence against seafarers and lack of public concern, called for a study into this subject—the Human Cost of Somali Piracy.
The study showed:
At the end of 2010, around 500 seafarers from more than 18 countries are being held hostage by pirates. Piracy clearly affects the world’s largest trade transport industry, but how much is it costing the world? One Earth Future (OEF) Foundation has conducted a large-scale study to quantify the cost of piracy as part of its Oceans Beyond Piracy project. Based on our calculations, maritime piracy is costing the international economy between $7 to $12 billion in 2012.
Incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia have increased in recent years, rising by 47% between 2005 and 2009. With a growing number of states involved in the determent and disruption of attacks, there is a need to outline their human rights obligations when engaging in counter-piracy operations, so that suspected pirates are treated in accordance with international law. In addition, providing clarity to states regarding their responsibilities enables them to make informed decisions about whether, and how, to prosecute suspected pirates.
This paper presents both sides of the debate over whether States should allow payment of ransoms to pirates. United States Executive Order 13536 and other recent national and international legislation have brought increased awareness to this issue. This paper does not attempt to settle the ransom debate, but instead highlights the key issues, which perhaps will inspire progress in the fight to curb piracy.
Maritime piracy continues to afflict the modern world. Basing their operations in places like Somalia, modern pirates have been able to launch attacks on ships traveling some of the world’s most trafficked waterways. The international community has created an interim prosecution regime that allows domestic courts in the region, notably those in Kenya, to try suspected pirates who are captured in international waters by cooperating navies.
Somali pirates astound because their skiff-mounted attacks on state-of-the-art supertankers repeatedly yield multimillion dollar ransoms, and because they can basically count on getting away with it. Why? Because the legal framework that governs the high seas contains blatant gaps that currently make prosecuting piracy difficult —if not impossible. The result? A deeply frustrated and embarrassed international community and a rising call for engaging pirates on land.