[JURIST] A "legal framework" is needed to enforce existing international laws against piracy [JURIST news archive], Adm. Thad Allen [official profile; blog], Commandant of the US Coast Guard [official website], said in an interview [transcript, with video] on ABC's "This Week" [media website] Sunday morning. Allen said the latest acts of Somali piracy [BBC Q&A], in which American Capt. Richard Phillips was taken hostage after a struggle on the Maersk Alabama, highlighted the need for authorization for forces to enter Somali waters to combat piracy:
What you really have to have is a coordinating mechanism that ultimately brings these pirates to court where they can be held accountable. … [T]hese are criminal acts. These are acts — crimes against the Law of the Sea Treaty, and they're also crimes against the 1988 convention in Rome,Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation. There is ample legal requirements and jurisdiction to be able to take action against these pirates. And that's what we should be doing.
Allen said enforcement of piracy laws would remove pressure on merchants to pay ransoms. Phillips was freed [LAT report] later Sunday after a US Navy rescue operation in which three of his captors were killed.
In March, the European Union (EU) [official website] announced an agreement with Kenya [JURIST report] to transfer suspected pirates captured by EU counter-pirate operations into Kenyan custody for prosecution. In December 2008, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] called for greater judicial cooperation [JURIST report] to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. In October 2008, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838 [text, PDF; press release], condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to "deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia." Although maritime piracy is increasingly widespread, Somalia's coast has been ranked as the most dangerous in the world [BBC report] due to a surge in attacks on ships carrying traded goods or humanitarian aid [NPR report].