Pirates, mercenaries and international law

UC Davis law student Ansel Halliburton has posted an interesting paper discussing the legal issues raised by how shipping companies might defend themselves from Somali pirates. Here is the abstract:

Because of the recent surge in piracy emanating from the failed state of Somalia, the world’s navies have focused unprecedented resources and attention on the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Despite a few successes, this military might has largely failed to reverse the tide of piracy. Shipping companies have begun to hire armed private guards to protect their vessels and crew where the public navies cannot. But should private force take a larger role? Should shipping companies hire mercenaries to go on the offensive against pirates? Does, or should, international law allow them to do so? This paper surveys public international law, emerging transnational criminal law, human rights and humanitarian law, and the histories of piracy and transnational private violence in search of answers.