Maritime Security: How to Catch a Pirate: " . . . A host of laws have been formulated to tackle the problem. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has established the legal definition of piracy in international law. UNCLOS does not, however, provide for investigatory or prosecutorial procedures or guidelines for international co-operation. It accords universal jurisdiction for piracy; any state is authorised to prosecute the crime of piracy committed on the high seas. The Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988 obliges contracting governments to either extradite or prosecute alleged offenders. The 1979 International Convention against the Taking of Hostages requires contracting states to criminalise the taking of hostages. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has published model laws on mutual assistance in criminal matters, witness protection, extradition and money-laundering and financing of terrorism that focus on the substantive obligations arising from international conventions. States may use the model laws as a starting point while drafting their own laws on the subject.
Universal jurisdiction does not apply when crimes are committed in territorial waters. It does not allow authorities to pursue pirates to their sanctuaries within territorial limits or on land. In order to prosecute piracy offences domestically, a state needs to criminalise the offence. Model legislation helps domestic legal systems to reform their substantive law and to prosecute in a manner consistent with international law.
Reports state that hundreds of Somali pirates are currently incarcerated in other countries, awaiting trial. Many of these countries have not yet criminalized piracy and the pirates are charged with general crimes such as armed robbery and attempt to murder. Often, the pirates are quietly released on the high seas to reduce congestion in local jails and the burden on the legal system. Efforts to bring pirates to justice in domestic courts have foundered due to various legal and practical challenges. . . . "
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