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Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law


piracy, juvenile pirates, Africa, maritime nations, human rights


Piracy off the coast of Somalia has flourished over the past decade, and has both caused a global crisis in maritime shipping and destabilized regional security in East Africa. In addition, piracy attacks have spread more recently to the coast of West Africa, and in particular, the Gulf of Guinea. Thus, piracy is an ongoing global issue that should continue to occupy many maritime nations in the near future, and one that should command continuous scholarly attention.

This article examines the issue of juvenile piracy, with a specific focus on the treatment of juvenile piracy suspects by both the capturing as well as prosecuting nation. After describing the pirates' modus operandi and their employment of juveniles, this article argues that states are obligated to treat juveniles with dignity and in a manner that is conducive to their rehabilitation. It further reviews several recent national prosecutions involving alleged juvenile pirates in order to ascertain how different nations have addressed age determinations and treatment of juveniles.

This article concludes that juvenile piracy suspects must be treated distinctly and recommends the following guidelines that arresting and prosecuting nations should follow to fulfill their international legal obligations: each suspect's age must be determined pursuant to medical and scientific procedures, any incarceration of juvenile suspects should occur in appropriate juvenile detention facilities, each juvenile's young age should play an important sentencing factor, and each juvenile's post-conviction incarceration should provide not only a correctional, but also an educational and rehabilitative opportunity.