In the wake of steadily increasing aggression on the part of pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden, law enforcement mechanisms for preventing piracy are falling short. Eugene Kontorovich, a scholar of international law at Northwestern Law School claims that new tools are needed to combat piracy in the waterways off Somalia that carry about one-third of the world’s seaborne trade.
The international community has recently tried to fill this security deficit. A new U.N. Security Council resolution, strongly backed by the United States, authorizes military attacks on suspected pirates in the area in and around the Aden Gulf. The authorization includes attacks on land bases, even when those bases are in Somali territory. Additionally, the U.K. and Kenya have agreed that the British Royal Navy will submit all pirates it captures during operations around Somalia to trial in domestic courts in Mombasa.
Kontorovich claims that these measures are responses to a larger inability of international criminal law to address the problem of piracy. As international law favors trials over direct engagement, Kontorovich argues that the international community will, and should, turn away from judicial remedies to control piracy. He believes that granting pirates the full spectrum of rights due criminal defendants unfairly ties the hands of the world community. Yet, he also argues that the credibility of international criminal law is at stake. Kontrovich believes that that if international criminal law fails to effectively combat piracy, it will not bode well for its ability to prevent or punish graver war crimes.
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