“All Necessary Means” in Somali Territorial Waters

A Security Council resolution addressing piracy of the Somali coast has been put before the Council. It is significant in that it would allow maritime states to take action to suppress piracy in the territorial sea of Somalia, a maritime zone in which the coastal state is sovereign. Sponsored by France and the U.S. (and co-sponsored by Panama and the U.K.), it is reported by the BBC that the resolution “expresses deep alarm at the increase in acts of piracy that pose a grave threat ‘to the safety of commercial maritime routes and to international navigation’ off Somalia” and authorizes states “to enter the country’s territorial waters and “use all necessary means to identify, deter, prevent and repress acts of piracy and armed robbery.” The story indicates that the resolution would require cooperation with the Somali government by other states in taking action.

It is interesting to note two things.

First, under the commonly accepted international legal definition of piracy contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Art. 101), piracy can only take place on the “high seas” – i.e. beyond all coastal maritime zones, including the territorial sea.  

Second, of course, “all necessary means”, was the form of words used by the Security Council to usher in the “New World Order” of 1990 under Security Council Resolution 687. S.C. Res. 678 authorized the use of force in the Iraq/Kuwait war.

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