Chicago Journal of International Law


Piracy has reemerged in the past decade, but international laws lag behind While modern-day piracy threatens lives and industries, antipiracy efforts are constrained by international legal definitions written centuries ago to address a crime that looked radically different from its twenty-first-century counterpart. Today, piracy networks are increasingly sophisticated and land-based, but piracy laws define the crime as one occurring on the high seas. Handcuffed by the high seas requirement, nations prosecute only junior pirates while pirate kingpins operate from the safety of land. In recent months, lower piracy rates have promised stability and masked the urgency of the threat. Although attacks have decreased, ransoms have skyrocketed and antipiracy successes come from methods resting on shaky legal foundations. The false sense of complacency in the antipiracy movement only heightens the need for a new definition of piracy. This Comment seeks a solution that will maintain existing international maritime laws but interpret them in a way that extends the piracy definition to land-based activities. These adjustments will efficiently deter pirates without the legal precariousness of existing antipiracy methods. It uses maritime treaties, counterterrorism tools, and familiar legal doctrines to pull pirate kingpins into the purview of piracy laws.

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