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Law Professor's Piracy Work Gets Noticed

Kontorovich’s solution to prosecuting Somali pirates cited by Seychelles Supreme Court

CHICAGO --- In a precedent-setting prosecution of pirates under international law, the Supreme Court of the Seychelles relied heavily on the scholarship of Northwestern University School of Law professor Eugene Kontorovich.

Seychelles is the world’s leader in prosecuting Somali pirates, a kind of ad hoc international piracy prosecution center. Suspects caught by the United States and other Western navies are transferred there for trial.

Kontorovich’s paper, “Equipment Articles for the Prosecution of Maritime Piracy,” addressed a common problem in bringing pirates to justice. Unless caught in the act, it is hard to prove that a group of men in a boat are actually pirates. 

Kontorovich proposed a solution that had been used successfully in the fight against the transatlantic slave trade in the 19th century – “equipment article” – a list of items the possession of which is probative of criminal intent. For slave traders it was chains and excess food, for pirates, grappling hooks, boarding ladders and dollar counting machines. 

In its recent judgment, the Supreme Court quoted extensively from the paper. Concluding that it “cannot agree more” with the analysis. The Court adopted the “equipment articles” paradigm to convict a group of seven Somali pirates. 

See link to the paper: 

The case, Republic v. Jama (July 25, 2012)

Topics: Chicago, Research
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