Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Piracy Jure Gentium Definition:

Piracy according to the law of nations.

Related Terms: Piracy (Maritime Law), Pirate

The definition of piracy not by domestic law but by the law of nations.

Many jurisdictions have definitions of piracy within their internal criminal or penal laws but piracy jure gentium refers not to domestic or, as it used to be called, municipal law, but to international law.

Since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the definition of piracy jure gentium in no longer the subject of conflicting law reports:

"Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

  • "Any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft (or) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any state;
  • "Any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
  • "Any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described (above) "

The distinction between piracy and piracy jure gentium was described by Wheaton as follows:

"Piracy under the law of nations (jure gentium) may be tried and punished in the courts of justice of any nation, by whomsoever and wheresoever committed. But piracy created by municipal (domestic, state) statute can only be tried by that state within whose territorial jurisdiction, and on board of whose vessels, the offence created was committed.

"There are certain acts which are considered piracy by the internal laws of a state to which the law of nations (jure gentium) does not attach the same significance."


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