Pirates Then and Now

Eugene Kontorovich, "A Guantanamo on the Seas": The Difficulty of Prosecuting Pirates and Terrorists, 98 Cal. L. Rev. 243 (2010). Samuel Issacharoff Eugene Kontorovich has struggled to return the outlawry of pirates to the legal agenda. Admittedly, he has had some assistance from brigands off the coast of Somalia and in the Indonesian Straits of Malacca. Nonetheless, as world attention turns to the indeterminate status of non-state actors who practice a form of warfare unencumbered by uniforms, the principle of distinction from civilians, or any of the evolved norms of respect for civilians, medical personnel and countless other features of the law of war, the legacy of clear international legal rules governing pirates seems like an attractive safe harbor. Surely nothing is more settled than the fact that pirates are hostis humani generis, enemies of all mankind, for whom jurisdiction is universal and punishment merciless. Or so it would seem. As Kontorovich well tells the tale, in the intervening centuries many international conventions have emerged reflecting both more sophisticated international relations and the emergence of human rights norms. Among these are the Geneva Conventions, other sources of international humanitarian law, refugee laws, and international laws of the seas. Continue reading "Pirates Then and Now"

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