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Thursday, 13 May 2010

Legislative response to pirates

In an attempt to tackle the increasing number of attacks by pirates on international shipping, the French Senate  adopted a bill that will allow France to respond more effectively to acts of maritime piracy. The government majority supported the bill, while left-wing members abstained. The bill will now be put before the National Assembly.The Senate vote comes just after the Russian navy successfully liberated a Russian tanker that had been captured by Somalian pirates, and one year after the capture of a French yacht, Tanit, whose captain was killed when French commandos stormed the sailboat.The new bill brings existing French legislation on piracy into line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in 1982. Acts of piracy are defined as attacks on shipping “on the high seas”, “in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State” and “within a State’s territorial waters, when authorized by international law”.This last measure addresses Somalia specifically. According to André Dulait (UMP), who introduced the new bill, “more than half of all acts of piracy in 2009 were carried out in the Gulf of Aden and along the Somalian coast, where almost 25,000 ships pass each year, carrying 20% of world trade”.The bill gives commanders the status of police inspectors, and will allow them to inspect suspicious vessels, open fire on and divert ships, seize property, arrest and charge pirates, and destroy their vessels. The text stipulates that when it is not possible for the pirates to be judged by a third State, the French judiciary could take over. The bill considers that the French judiciary has “an almost universal competency for judging acts of piracy committed outside France, regardless of the nationality of the vessel or victims”, when the pirates are captured by French agents.

Source : DNA