Sunday, October 26, 2008

Security Council Resolves to Fight (Some) Piracy

As I mentioned in an earlier post about a French ship's run in with pirates in the Gulf of Aden, France asked the Security Council (right) for action, particularly in the form of “regular international surveillance” and changing the definition of "piracy" in the Law of the Sea Treaty to allow states to pursue pirates even in the coastal waters off Somalia. Earlier this month, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1838, which authorizes states to take action against acts of piracy and armed robbery against vessels off the Somalian coast. Having determined
that the incidents of piracy and armed robbery against vessels in the territorial waters of Somalia and the high seas off the coast of Somalia exacerbate the situation in Somalia which continues to constitute a threat against international peace and security in the region,
the Security Council encourages states to deploy "naval vessels and military aircraft" in the area (photo credit). Leery of establishing a precedent, the Council clearly states that the Resolution applies only to Somalia and "underscores in particular that this resolution shall not be considered as establishing customary international law." Interesting.
Apparently, the Security Council was not willing to go as far as France had proposed: it authorizes military undertakings in Somalia's coastal waters to combat piracy as a tributary to or aggravating factor in the international-peace-threatening situation in Somalia, but the definition of "piracy" would still seem to limit the crime to acts on the high seas. Though piracy was the original threat to collective security, giving birth to universal jurisdiction and providing the model for actions against today's perpetrators of international crimes, it no longer seems to be considered as such. Instead, in this particular situation, it is a hook for a sort of externalized R2P--we intervene at water's edge to protect our interests on the theory that this will improve, or at least help keep from worsening, the situation within Somalia.

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