Since 2008 the rise of piracy off the Somali coast has become a prominent international issue. It is said to have begun as an effort by local Somalis to protect their waters from illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping but it has undeniably become a much more complex issue.
Both commercial and private ships have been hijacked in the region and hundreds of crew members have been held hostage. In 2010 piracy activity reached a peak in the region when according to EUNAVOR 174 ships were attacked with a total of 65 boats successfully hijacked.
A coordinated counter-piracy effort has resulted as a response to the increased threat and there are now multiple agencies patrolling the Gulf Of Aden and beyond. Naval counter piracy forces operating on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, and in Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean state that primary authority for their activities is derived from the Law of the Sea Convention, allowing them to board, search, detain, and arrest suspected pirates. In addition there are Security Council resolutions which are said to provide authority for some counter piracy activities in the territorial sea and internal waters of Somalia, and on mainland Somalia.
Regional states including Kenya, Somaliland and the Seychelles are being made the recipients of increasing amounts of targeted aid in return for their agreement to take custody of and to prosecute alleged pirates captured by international navies in locations around the Indian Ocean.
EJF has been exploring the human rights issues associated with these counter-piracy efforts and has identified the following areas of concern:
- Legality of detention and transfer of suspected pirates to countries such as Kenya and Seychelles
- Access to justice for those transferred to countries for prosecution
- Injuries and death caused by counter piracy efforts