Law Group Helps to Prepare Cases Against Pirates

Research memos for prosecutors in Seychelles involve many issues, including definition of piracy

News Release: Friday, December 2, year, 2011

After 200 years of quiescence, piracy has re-emerged as a major problem for world shipping, resulting in more than $12 billion in estimated losses in the past 12 months. Somali pirates, who operate throughout the Indian Ocean, have recently seized more than 50 vessels and taken over 1,000 crew members and passengers hostage.

This month (Dec. 12-13) Case Western Reserve University Law Professor Michael Scharf and Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Associate Professor Milena Sterio will meet with Ronny Govinden, the attorney general of the Seychelles Islands, and his staff to assist the small country in its piracy prosecutions.

Somalia won’t prosecute. Kenya’s prosecutions have been put on hold. So countries that have been capturing pirates from Somalia have been taken them to Seychelles, which has set up a regional piracy court with assistance of the UN. To help Seychelles with its piracy prosecutions, Professor Scharf and his Nobel-nominated NGO, the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), have convened a “High Level Piracy Working Group.”

One of the members of the working group is Rosemelle Mutoka, chief judge of the Kenya Piracy Court. Judge Mutoka is spending this academic semester as a visiting jurist at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

The High Level Piracy Working Group also includes representatives from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of Defense, as well as a dozen leading academics and practitioners from several countries.

During the past six months, the High Level Piracy Working Group has been busy preparing two-dozen research memos for the Seychelles prosecutors on such issues as the definition of piracy and exercise of universal jurisdiction over pirates.

Other matters for legal research involve hot pursuit and the apprehension of pirates in the territorial waters of third states, standards of use of force against pirates by authorities and private contractors, modes of responsibility applicable to piracy (such as joint criminal enterprise and command responsibility), prosecuting the financing of piracy, international standards of justice applicable to piracy trials, factors guiding the sentencing of convicted pirates, and repatriation and reintegration of pirates after completing jail time.

Professors Scharf and Sterio will deliver research memos and a virtual library of piracy-related legal resources to the Seychelles attorney general, and they will then conduct a series of training sessions with the Seychelles prosecutors.

Notes to editors and reporters:
Professors Scharf and Sterio will be available to speak to the media about their Seychelles experience when they get back to Cleveland on Dec. 17. Michael Scharf has been named president of a prestigious organization of international law experts and practitioners, International Criminal Law Network, based in the Netherlands. He will be traveling there Monday, Dec. 5. Although limited by his travel schedule and meetings, upon request Scharf can be available before his return to Cleveland for media comment about the piracy legal work.

As part of this project, PILPG is publishing the “Piracy News Update,” a biweekly electronic newsletter that will keep subscribers informed of piracy-related developments around the world, available at:

In addition, the High Level Piracy Working Group has assembled a comprehensive electronic database of piracy-related documents and resources, available at:

Posted by: Marvin Kropko, December 2, 2011 09:42 PM | News Topics: Official Release