After a lapse of several hundred years, piracy on the international seas has once again become a pressing international problem.
Tens of thousands of ships are being threatened by “marine terrorists” every year. In 2008 alone, the losses totalled around 20 billion dollars.
A new and booming market is opening up here for private military and security firms (PMSFs).
Ship-owners, transport companies and insurance companies are increasingly turning to these firms for the supply of armed services. The use of such firms raises a wide range of questions. Many economic, legal and, not least, human rights issues are tied up with using PMSFs to combat piracy.
The practice has already claimed a good number of victims. Civilians (eg fishermen) have, for instance, often been killed because they were falsely suspected of being pirates.
Even more so than is the case with the activity of PMSFs on dry land, their activity on the high seas is neither transparent nor subject to any controls whatsoever.
The undermining of international legal standards is the order of the day. Arbitrary measures are holding sway in areas where legal certainty should be guaranteed.
The Council of Europe should draw up recommendations to make it easier to use constitutional methods to combat piracy as a criminal offence. In particular, the action of PMSFs in this area must be lawful and must be governed by internationally binding regulations.