Somali pirates have rights too: Judicial consequences and human rights concerns

This paper highlights that the strategy of enforcing legal accountability for pirates at sea but not those on shore breeds disregard for human rights

The international community’s counter-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia has had limited success, despite a proliferation of initiatives and resources. Although the large military presence has increased the number of piracy suspects that are being brought to trial, it has not reduced the number of pirates taking to the high seas. Rather, the increased militarisation and the strategies designed to bypass human rights obligations vis-à-vis the Somali pirates has undermined the credibility of the counter-piracy initiatives. The regional piracy prosecutions in Kenya, in particular, have raised various human rights issues, such as the failure to observe due process and the lack of appropriate jurisdiction. This paper highlights the fact that the strategy of enforcing legal accountability for pirates at sea but not for those on shore breeds a disregard for the human rights of a very vulnerable group of people, and results in an increase in piratical activities.

About the author

Deborah Osiro is a legal and security consultant in Nairobi. Previously she worked for the ISS Environmental Security Programme. She has published several articles on governance, justice, security and economic issues in the region.



Development partners
This publication was made possible through funding provided by the governments of Norway and Denmark, which also provide general Institute funding along with the governments of the Netherlands and Sweden.
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