Event Title

International Law in Crisis: Piracy off the Coast of Somalia

Event Series Title

Criminal Justice Forum

Document Type





The rise of piracy off the coast of Somalia over the last five years has been spectacular, amounting to a true crisis in international law. Somali pirates have attacked hundreds of ships and have taken hundreds of sailors hostage. Moreover, pirates have been attacking larger ships, such as oil tankers, and using more potent weapons, such as rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. In sum, piracy has increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated $10 billion per year in global trade. What has sparked this international law crisis off the coast of Somalia? Moreover, what can the international community do in order to alleviate the crisis and prevent piracy from spreading to other regions of the world? What should be the way forward? This lecture will seek to answer these difficult questions by first exploring the reasons for the proliferation of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia in the 21st century, before turning to an analysis of international law on piracy and focusing on finding solutions for the future. This lecture will particularly focus on a possible solution of increased reliance on regional partners in the fight against piracy. Such regional partners include Kenya, the Seychelles, and Mauritius; this lecture will propose useful ways in which these countries could participate in the global fight against Somali piracy. In the absence of an international piracy court and in the face of major maritime nations’ unwillingness to participate in the prosecution of pirates on a large scale, the use of Kenyan, Seychellois and Mauritian courts may be the best tool in combating Somali pirates.

Milena Sterio is a Professor of Law at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Professor Sterio earned her law degree, magna cum laude, from Cornell Law School. She earned a master's degree, cum laude, in Private International Law from the University Paris I-Pantheon-Sorbonne and she earned a Maitrise en droit franco-americain cum laude, also from the Sorbonne. Her undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, in Political Science and French Literature is from Rutgers College.

Before joining the Cleveland-Marshall faculty, she was an associate in the New York City firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton and an Adjunct Law Professor at Cornell, where she taught in the International War Crimes Clinic. Her research interests are in the field of international law, international criminal law, international human rights, law of the seas, as well as private international law. She has published in the American University Law Review, the Connecticut International Law Journal, the Fordham International Law Journal, the Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law, the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, the Florida Journal of International Law, and the UC Davis of International Law and Policy.