Piracy and Human Rights: Fragmented Criminal Procedure Leads to Human Rights Abuses

Published 6 November 2017

As highlighted in the 2017 UN Secretary-General’s Report on piracy off the coast of Somalia, piracy remains a problem. Its topicality and the continuously evolving practice concerning law enforcement, prosecution and adjudication remind us of the importance of ensuring that fairness and human rights are protected in these processes.

Dr. Marta Bo, researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut, argues that one of the problems is the fragmentation and inconsistency of criminal procedure, which lays the ground for human rights abuses against suspected individuals.

In her paper “Piracy at the Intersection between International and National: Regional Enforcement of a Transnational Crime”, Dr. Marta Bo, researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut, argues that piracy does not fall under the definition of international crime, but should rather be seen as a transnational crime. Her argument is based on an analysis of the reasons for criminalising piracy under international law and for its international jurisdictional regime.

The author also analyses some of the implications of law enforcement actions against transnational crimes and of prosecuting and trying transnational crimes.

First, different legal regimes may apply, leading to uncertainty in the applicable law follows. Second, criminal proceedings against pirates have been carried out by individual states according to their domestic laws. There is no one body of authority responsible for arresting and prosecuting pirates. This has resulted in fragmentation and incoherency of criminal procedure against piracy as well as in escaping responsibility.

Dr. Bo supports the idea of regional efforts aimed at ensuring fairly conducted proceedings and guaranteeing that no human rights violations will take place or that at least they are addressed.

Read the full paper “Piracy at the Intersection between International and National: Regional Enforcement of a Transnational Crime”.