European Union forces deployed from Monday in a naval anti-piracy mission around the Horn of Africa may hand over suspects to third countries such as Kenya for trial, Germany said on Sunday.
"The EU is reviewing agreements whereby suspects could be taken by third countries that are willing and in a position to launch criminal proceedings," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told public broadcaster ZDF.
"Moreover we are in favour of reviewing whether the United Nations could use existing international courts or found a new one to conduct such criminal proceedings.
"That will also be a part of our mandate" which the cabinet is to green-light Wednesday, after which the parliament must give its approval.
Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung told the same programme that pirates captured by the EU's naval force could be handed over to "friendly states" seeking the suspects for attacks on their ships.
He added that in other cases Germany backed proposals to arrange a deal with Kenya to take the suspects "so we can assume they will not simply be released".
Jung said Germany would, if necessary, use force to prevent acts of piracy.
Peter Struck, head of the parliamentary group of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Germany's ruling "grand coalition", said Germany planned to deploy a frigate and "up to 1,000 soldiers".
But Struck, a former defence minister, warned in the online version of the Hamburger Abendblatt today that the operation would be "dangerous," calling it a "combat mission against the pirates".