The US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [order list, PDF] in two cases Tuesday that dealt with federal maritime piracy law [JURIST news archive]. The court denied Dire v. United States [cert. petition, PDF; docket] and Said v. United States [cert. petition, PDF; docket], both decided in May of last year [JURIST report], opting not to rule on the application of a 1790 federal law, piracy under law of nations [18 USC § 1651 text] to modern Somali pirates. In Dire, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the law can be applied to current international standards of piracy. The opinion also endorsed the definition of piracy under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) [materials] and applied it as "customary international law" for the purposes of the piracy statute. "We also agree with the district court that the definition of piracy under the law of nations, at the time of the defendants' attack on the USS Nicholas and continuing today, had for decades encompassed their violent conduct. That definition, spelled out in the UNCLOS, as well as the High Seas Convention before it, has only been reaffirmed in recent years as nations around the world have banded together to combat the escalating scourge of piracy."
Last month, the Chief Judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled [JURIST report] that Somalia's territorial waters extend no more than 12 miles from shore, concluding that the US has jurisdiction to prosecute a band of pirates accused of murdering four Americans in 2011. The month before, the UN Security Council condemned [JURIST report] piracy and acts of armed robbery against vessels off the coast of Somalia. The Security Council urged the international community to develop a comprehensive response to discourage these acts.