Under a principle of international law known as the "universality principle", a government may "exercise jurisdiction over conduct outside its territory if that conduct is universally dangerous to states and their nationals." The rationale behind the universality principle is that states will punish certain acts "wherever they may occur as a means of protecting the global community as a whole, even absent a link between the state and the parties or the acts in question." Under this principle, the concept of "universal jurisdiction" applies to the crime of piracy. For example, the United States has a statute (section 1651 of title 18 of the United States Code) imposing a sentence of life in prison for piracy "as defined by the law of nations" committed anywhere on the high seas, regardless of the nationality of the pirates or the victims.
Piracy is of note in international law as it is commonly held to represent the earliest invocation of the concept of universal jurisdiction. The crime of piracy is considered a breach of jus cogens, a conventional peremptory international norm that states must uphold. Those committing thefts on the high seas, inhibiting trade, and endangering maritime communication are considered by sovereign states to be hostis humani generis (enemies of humankind). 2b1af7f3a8