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France: New Anti-Piracy Law

(Jan. 20, 2011) The French Parliament recently adopted Law 2011-13 of January 5, 2011, on Fighting Piracy and on State Police Powers at Sea. It is aimed at reinforcing the intervention capabilities of the French state, in particular, on the high seas (Loi 2011-13 du 5 janvier 2011 relative à la lutte contre la piraterie et à l'exercice des pouvoirs de police de l' Etat en mer, LEGIFRANCE, (File: Les autres textes législatifs et réglementaires) (hereinafter Loi 2011-13)).

The Law creates a legal framework to fight piracy based on the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of December 10, 1982, also referred to as the Montego Bay Convention (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982: Overview and Full Text, United Nations website,
(last visited Jan. 18, 2011)). The Law enumerates the acts of piracy that constitute criminal offenses, the methods of investigating and ascertaining that these criminal offenses have been committed, and the agents that are authorized to do so (Loi 2011-13, , art. 1).

The Law gives a quasi-universal competence to French courts to judge acts of piracy committed outside French territory, provided that the perpetrators are arrested by French forces. The reform authorizes French naval commanders to seize any documents or objects linked to acts of piracy, without authorization of the public prosecutors, in cases of extreme emergency (id).

Detention of the crew of a vessel that has been boarded by French forces is expressly regulated and takes into account the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Medvedyev v France (application 3394/03) that found that the detention of the crew of a vessel intercepted by French forces was arbitrary (id. art.6; Press Release, Mevedyev and Others v. France (No. 3394/03), ECHR website (Mar. 29, 2010),
[scroll down to “France” section].)