Changing Tides: An Adaptable Prosecution Approach to Piracy’s Shifting Problem


Although piracy off the coast of Somalia has captured worldwide attention, attacks in this region are decreasing while other regions are experiencing increases in pirate activity.  This Note expands upon prior research into prosecution models for combatting piracy off the coast of Somalia to determine the adaptability and sustainability of these methods as applied to piracy in other regions.  In examining the three most common prosecution models currently used and proposed (prosecution by domestic courts in regional states, prosecution by the capturing state or by a state with a significant nexus to the attack and prosecution by a specialized piracy tribunal), this Note proposes that prosecution by states with a significant connection to the attack must continue to play a vital role in complementing prosecution by more localized sources, and that prosecution by a specialized tribunal lacks the adaptability and sustainability needed to combat piracy across various regions.  While prosecution through domestic courts in regional states, such as Kenya, provide significant benefits, they are not by themselves a practical solution to piracy in other regions.  Rather than continuing the investigation into a specialized tribunal, as the United Nations (UN) has called for in a recent resolution, international support on a more localized basis with continued support from capturing or interested states provides a more realistic and efficient solution that could be applied to nearly any region where piracy may resurge. Adaptability in judicial systems is of particular importance in the piracy context so that the experiences and developments of courts handling the issues today are not lost as the locus of the piracy problem shifts from Somalia to other regions. In order to assess the future for piracy prosecution as piracy attack levels fluctuate, and as the problem shifts to new regions, this Note first discusses modern piracy trends before taking an in-depth examination and comparison of three potential prosecution models:  the use of domestic courts in regional states, prosecution by capturing states and other interested international parties, and prosecution by a specialized international tribunal.