The issue of piracy, not just in Somalia, but throughout the world’s five hot spots, including Indonesia, Malaysia, China and the Philipines, have been a growing problem for the past nine years. At present there are approximately 200 crewmen from multiple vesels who are stuck in limbo waiting for their vessels to be freed. Indeed, a few of the other hot spots have been more violent then the situation in Somalia. The difference of course, is that now the United States has decided it is time to do something about the pirates because an American crew was affected by the hijackings. And the first thing that will be done is to try the 18 year old pirate in the federal courts in New York for crimes that expose him to life in prison. Other scholars, such as Eugune Kontorovich and have written about the legal aspects and difficulties of prosecuting piracy, and the international law blogs have covered the Somali situation extensively. The interesting thing is that piracy is the classic jus cogens crime, giving nations the room to prosecute through the use of universal jurisdiction. Yet, few nations have opted to pursue prosecutions against the pirates, being perfectly happy to foist them off on Kenya or simply to pay the ransom. Clearly priracy is a crime, but perhaps the aproach to modern day piracy, driven by poverty and political instability deserves a fresh look from the international legal community. One study pointed out that the hijackings are overlapping the World Food Programme shipping routes. Somalia’s piracy problem is complicated or some would argue caused by the failure of the disintergration of government within the Somali state. Whether it was necessitated by legitimate fisherman seeking taxes for use of Somali waters or the more violent and aggressive hijackers, it needs to be brought under control, but we also need to start seeing a much more robust discussion of how the world community can assist Somalia in rebuilding its government. That will go much further towards solving the Somali pirate problem, then will trials of scores of individual pirates.
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