With a growing number of states involved in the determent and disruption of pirate attacks, there is a need to outline their human rights obligations when engaging in counter-piracy operations, so that suspected pirates are treated in accordance with international law. In addition, providing clarity to states regarding their responsibilities enables them to make informed decisions about whether, and how, to prosecute suspected pirates. Focusing on Somalia, this paper examines the piracy as situated within international law, while addressing the application of human rights treaties, and issues such as detention, right to asylum, non-refoulement, and the transfer of pirates to third parties. While ambiguity remains regarding the obligations of states dealing with suspected pirates, existing case law does provide some guidelines. However, other factors, such as political processes and expediency, have sometimes taken precedence over the protection and fulfillment of human rights.
Saoirse de Bont completed her law degree at the University of Manchester. She was a consultant with One Earth Future when writing this paper.