Rules of Engagement and Legal Frameworks for Multinational Counter-Piracy Operations

13 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2014 Last revised: 5 Apr 2014

Date Written: March 1, 2014


In response to the upsurge in piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the international community has established three multinational counter-piracy task forces to protect shipping in this vital transit corridor and respond to pirate attacks. The multitude of task forces and units from different states are playing a critical role in combatting piracy and protecting shipping, but it also presents challenges with regard to the legal and operational frameworks and coordination necessary to keep those operations running smoothly. The law applicable to counter-piracy operations will govern how a state or multinational force uses force against pirates, how pirates are treated if captured, the crimes for which pirates can be prosecuted, and what mechanisms can be used in such prosecutions. This essay explores how the legal frameworks and the rules of engagement applicable to counter-piracy operations create a complicated interrelationship that can pose challenges in the context of multinational operations. The first section analyzes the legal frameworks that could and do apply to counter-piracy operations by military forces. The second section then builds on those frameworks with a discussion of rules of engagement and the specific challenges multinational operations face in coordinating and implementing effective rules of engagement in counter-piracy operations.

Keywords: piracy, counter piracy, rules of engagement, ROE, law of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, multinational operations, piracy task force, law of war, Geneva Conventions, UNCLOS

Suggested Citation

Blank, Laurie R., Rules of Engagement and Legal Frameworks for Multinational Counter-Piracy Operations (March 1, 2014). Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 46, 2014, Forthcoming; Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-289. Available at SSRN:

Laurie R. Blank (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-1711 (Phone)


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