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A Human Rights View of Maritime Piracy Law: Exploring the Gulf of Guinea


  • Ramat Tobi Abudu University College Cork



UNCLOS, Human Rights Law, Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria, Piracy Law


As a result of pirates’ unique modus operandi in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG), the current approach to counter-piracy is mainly securitised and repressive. This approach follows the international provisions on piracy framed based on the customary international law categorising pirates as “enemy of mankind”; which, considering the vicious nature of the crime, is quite justified. Moreover, the increase in piracy activities at sea within the GoG is foreseeable considering the economic recession faced by countries within the region due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This prediction calls for the strengthening of law enforcement operations at sea, which must be justifiable in international human rights law in order to ensure the protection of all persons. Thus, reviewing the current piracy laws and their coherence with international human rights law is a requisite. This paper recognises the repressive counter-piracy approach’s success, but takes a glance from a human rights lens, which raises questions relating to “lawfulness”. Consequently, this paper builds on the existing literature criticising the repressive policy towards countering piracy in the GoG. It also advances the research probing the alignment of counter-piracy operations with human rights obligations. This paper additionally takes it a step further by evaluating the piracy laws in the GoG and their alignment with human rights provisions. These findings set a new course towards a more sustainable approach to countering piracy in the GoG, balancing rights and security approaches towards ensuring the protection of lives at sea.