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23 June 2010
Piracy has been an issue in the shipping industry for centuries and has recently been attracting international attention. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, also known as the Montego Bay Treaty, member states are obliged to cooperate in fighting piracy. Belgium has recently adopted two anti-piracy laws.
The two laws of December 30 2009 implement a general regime on combating piracy in international waters, and provide for measures to be taken against pirates on the high seas and against parties involved in acts of piracy. The laws also deal with the prosecution of pirates and those involved in piracy.
The definition of 'piracy' exactly replicates that of Articles 101 and 102 of the treaty.
The piracy laws provide that:
The piracy laws also include certain rules of criminal procedural law. Given the specific circumstances surrounding crimes committed on the high seas, at a great distance from the 'normal' criminal law enforcement environment, the provisions state that pirates can be arrested by the commanding officers of a warship and transported to Belgium. The laws also detail the conditions and circumstances in which a suspected pirate vessel can be pursued and boarded.
Article 3(1) provides that an act of piracy onboard a Belgian vessel is deemed to have taken place on Belgian soil. The Belgian public prosecutor can prosecute any person who is found guilty of piracy that takes place outside the Belgian territory when the acts are committed against a Belgian ship or when Belgian military officers have arrested the suspects. The laws also describe the conditions of detention, questioning and transfer of persons in respect of piracy.
If the public prosecutor has sufficient grounds, a prosecution can be brought before the Brussels Criminal Court. Alternatively, provided that the standards of impartiality, independence and equity are assured, the public prosecutor may decide to remit the prosecution to:
The laws came into force on January 14 2010.
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