India could lead the way for the rest of the world in incorporating such laws which would then help make the intent to commit piracy actually prosecutable.
Despite tremendous advances in information and communication technology the world has made, the age-old menace of maritime piracy has spread its tentacles in recent years.
Governments are spending enormous amounts but seem to be fighting a losing battle against piracy in the Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and beyond.
The military approach has not been effective. Is there a way out?
Many are aware that under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, for example, a pirate ship is defined as a vessel operated with the intent to commit piracy and a pirate as one who crews such a ship. But not many are actually aware that a prosecutable definition of intent is not in the treaty and has never been formally expressed.
That renders the crime very difficult if not impossible to prosecute, and forces navies to employ a catch and release policy sustaining the low-risk incentive structure that makes piracy attractive. Changing this incentive structure requires eliminating the economic incentives that make piracy attractive, according to the US-based One Earth Future Foundation.
Recognising that for suppressing maritime piracy, there is need to explore options in international law, top international law experts have now called for a prosecutable definition of intent to commit piracy and updating of modern maritime equipment laws.
In a brainstorming meeting held recently in Denver, Colorado, a land-locked state in the heart of the American Rocky mountains, 15 of the worlds leading international law and governance professors, legal experts and judges considered various aspects of the problem and reached conclusions that are contained in a report released recently by One Earth Future Foundation, the Academic Council on the United Nations System and the American Society of International Law.
The experts highlight three main steps.
One, create areas of the ocean wherein the presence of certain equipment (grappling hooks, boarding ladders, excessive power, heavy weapons) gives rise to dispositive evidence that a vessel intends to commit piracy
second, determine a strong venue to prosecute detainees in a country affected by piracy and ensure that these local courts have the authority (national legislation) and resolve to prosecute on intent as defined by equipment laws
and lastly, naval task fleets sweep the seas to detain suspected pirate vessels and crews that meet the equipment standard specified in law.
One Earth Future Foundation said India could lead the way for the rest of the world in incorporating such laws which would then help make the intent to commit piracy actually prosecutable. No one may have explored this angle yet.
For India, it makes sense simply because as much as 30 percent of attackedvessels are Indian owned or have Indian crew members, and the attacks are getting increasingly closer to Indias shores.