Piracy in Corsica?

The French press reported recently a piracy attack off the South-West coast of Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean Sea.  According to the press reports, the attack took place on February 16th, and the victim vessel was a French yacht, with three passengers (including the yacht owner) on board.  The four attackers were allegedly both masked and armed; they managed to quickly neutralize the yacht passengers and to lock them up inside the cabin.  After about three hours, the attackers forced the victims to embark on a smaller life boat (which had been attached to the larger yacht), and then abandoned them on the sea.  Luckily for the victims, they managed to reach the southern coast of Corsica safely, where they reported the attack.

While the reasons for the attack remain uncertain as of now, it is possible that the attackers were part of a yacht trafficking ring.  Such a ring existed during the last decade, between southern France, Corsica, and Tunisia, before it was successfully dismantled through law enforcement operations.  Piracy attacks in the Mediterranean Sea are of course virtually inexistent.  It was thus surprising to hear about reports of this attack.

Legally speaking, it is unclear whether this attack can properly be classified as “piracy.”  Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an act of piracy has to be committed on the high seas – waters beyond the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea of the littoral state.  In this instance, the French press did not specify where the attack took place and whether it occurred in the French territorial sea or on the high seas (the article mentioned that the attack took place “near” the coast of Corsica).  If the attack did take place on the high seas, then we would be witnessing the incidence of piracy off the coast of France – something that the world has not seen in several centuries!

Advertisements

About Milena Sterio
Milena Sterio is a law professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, where she teaches and specializes in International Law, International Criminal Law, Maritime Piracy, and Human Rights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s