McGeorge School of Law

Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia: Challenges to Deterrence, Pursuit, and Prosecution


May 20 - 21, 2009


Co-sponsored by ASIL-West and McGeorge Global Center for Business and Development, this program discussed the significant challenges that modern-day piracy is posting for the world community. The conference was held in Calgary, Alberta.

Somali pirates have a lucrative business in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, and also in the broad expanse of the Indian Ocean. The United Nations Security Council has passed resolutions authorizing states to take action to protect ships on the high seas and within the territorial waters of Somalia. However, despite patrols now in place from Great Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, Russia, India, China, South Korea, Iran, Canada, Malaysia, and the United States, the pirates are continuing to seize ships, hold hostages, and demand ransom. Many questions of international law arise from the pursuit and apprehension of the pirates:

  • What is required under the law of the sea to board, search, and seize vessels or persons?
  • Is it legal to pursue the pirates on land in Somalia?
  • If apprehended, where, can or should the pirates be tried?
  • Does international human rights law prohibit trying the pirates in Somalia, which has a troubled legal system?
  • Should there be a special international tribunal established to try cases of piracy?

Commentary by special guest speaker Hon. Fausto Pocar (Appeals Chamber, ICTY and ICTR) was followed by an open discussion by those in attendance with Judge Pocar and other experts, including:

  • Diane Marie Amann (UC Davis)
  • David Caron (UC Berkeley)
  • Linda Carter (McGeorge)
  • Franklin Gevurtz (McGeorge)
  • John Sims (McGeorge)
  • Beth Van Schaack (Santa Clara).

Conference Materials