I'm sure we are all aware of the news about the attacks on shipping off the coast off Africa by Somali pirates. There have been over 90 attacks this year and the pirates are currently holding 17 ships and more than 250 sailors.
It wasn't until I read this article Why Don't We Hang Pirates Any More? that I realized how the efforts of various navies to deal with this issue are hamstrung by the current laws on piracy. Current international law "enjoins naval ships from firing on suspected pirates". Apparently they are required to send over a boarding party first to inquire if they are in fact pirates. Hmmm. That sounds like it should work.
And if pirates are captured there is the problem of what to do with them. US law establishes a sentence of life in prison for a foreigner captured in the act of piracy, but only for attacks against US-flagged vessels, of which there are few these days. And the British foreign office has recently advised the Royal Navy not to take pirates prisoner lest they seek asylum in the UK. Yikes.
So it's not at all like the good old days when a "more robust attitude" to dealing with pirates prevailed. What do you think? How should we deal with pirates?