This article deals with the problem of combating international crime related to violence at sea. The question addressed is whether, according to public international law, all violent acts in the maritime domain, such as maritime piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking and maritime terrorism, can be combined into one legal concept. In order to answer this question, this article takes the traditional notion of “piracy” in the sense used in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and explores the possibility of the notion being extended to encompass the other forms of crime to a concept of “universal maritime crime”. Jurisdictional issues, the difficulties of incorporating the resulting concept into domestic criminal legislation and challenges related to the prosecution of alleged criminals, such as due process and human rights issues, are also considered.
Human trafficking has been defined by Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons as 'trafficking in persons,' defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation." With regard to the purpose of the activities, trafficking must involve an exploitative purpose, whereas smuggling only requires that the perpetrator obtain a financial or another material benefit. Regarding the means, the threat or use of force is not a condition, because most people are smuggled willingly. With regard to the nature of the crime, human trafficking often occurs within the borders of a single country, whereas human smuggling is always transnational in nature. The final distinction suggested by Jenna Shearer Demir is that there is also a difference that goes beyond the legal definition, as most adult victims of trafficking are women, whereas most smuggled adults are men.