American University Law Review
Somalia, piracy, hostage, ransom, maritime, terrorism, shipping industry
Over the past few years, piracy has exploded off the coast of Somalia. Somali pirates congregate on a "mother ship" and then divide into smaller groups that sail out on tiny skiffs. Using potent weapons such as AK-47s and hand-propelled grenades, Somali pirates attack civilian ships carrying cargo through the Gulf of Aden, a body of water between Yemen and Somalia. Once they have overtaken the victim vessel, the pirates typically hijack the vessel's cargo and kidnap the crewmembers. The cargo is often resold to willing buyers or held for ransom. The crew are kept hostage in Somalia until either the hostages' home country or the shipowners pay, at times, multi-million dollar ransoms. In most instances, crewmembers are released unharmed, but those held hostage have described a horrific ordeal. The pirates themselves routinely go unpunished: once they release the hostages, the pirates simply plan yet another lucrative capture.
This Article argues that the true solution to the Somali piracy problem consists of a globally coordinated effort involving major maritime powers, countries in the regions affected by piracy, and shipping companies. This effort would encourage parties to share information and jointly collect data, cooperate in maritime patrols and surveillance operations off the Somali coast, establish jurisdictional networks that ensure pirates are always prosecuted, and provide stiff penalties for apprehended pirates. Part I describes why fighting piracy is crucial in today's volatile world. It argues that if Somali piracy continues to thrive, it could dangerously undermine East African regional stability, contribute to the rise of terrorism, further endanger the financial stability of the shipping industry, and impose burdensome human and monetary costs on a global scale. Even major maritime countries like the United States or the United Kingdom could be seriously affected by unchecked piracy in Somalia. Part II outlines the existing legal resources available to fight piracy, including domestic criminal statutes and major international treaties. Part III describes how other regions have addressed the problem of modem piracy, focusing on the successful solutions adopted by the littoral states in Southeast Asia when piracy incidents increased in the Malacca Straits. Finally, Part IV presents both legal and practical solutions based on the Southeast Asian model that could be adopted to resolve the Somali piracy crisis. This Article concludes that, because of the potential global threat that Somali piracy poses, any response must be global in scope, with all affected parties—private and governmental—working both to improve security and law enforcement in the affected area and to resolve jurisdictional conflicts that inhibit efforts to bring pirates to justice.
Sterio, Milena, "The Somali Piracy Problem: A Global Puzzle Necessitating a Global Solution" (2010). Law Faculty Articles and Essays. 1035.