On the Definition of the Crime of Sea Piracy Revisited: Customary vs. Treaty Law and the Jurisdictional Implications Thereof
Journal of Maritime Law & Commerce, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2011
30 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2015
Date Written: 2011
Crimes of piracy exist because the underlying purpose of defining the crime is to keep commercial lanes of navigation open to shipping. However, is the definition of sea piracy so all-inclusive so as to make it too vague in prosecution situations? And, can pirates on land be considered pirates only if they were first considered pirates on the high seas? A diversity of scholarly opinion exists surrounding the definition of the term, and has existed since the first articles on sea piracy appeared in the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas.
No prevailing definition of the word "piracy" is used when the crime occurs away from internal or territorial waters. Instead, piracy is called "armed robbery" in locations, primarily municipal, other than the high seas.
This article sets out the different views of what constituted the crime of piracy historically, and how it evolved into its current usages. The author also discusses the "custom(s)" regarding the definition(s) of piracy and parses the international law definition provided in the Geneva Convention.
Keywords: piracy, sea piracy, international customs, Geneva Convention on the High Seas, historical definitions of piracy
JEL Classification: K14, K33, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation