Saturday, June 8, 2013

Piracy: Somalis Accused of Killing  4 Americans  on Yacht Go On Trial

3 Somali Pirates Accused Of Killing 4 Americans On Yacht Are Not Guilty: Defense Lawyer. Link To Huffington Post story

USCG PHOTO by Tyson Weinert  Public Domain
  The problem with this trial as we see it is pretty close to what the defense lawyers claim. The key witnesses in the trial are other pirates who have already been convicted of piracy. Thus the key witnesses have a vested interested in placing the guilt for the actual murders on others. This is the problem with attempting to fix the death penalty, adjust it, make it less likely to be applied in error. We now focus on exacting the ultimate penalty on those directly and most culpable. The last successful piracy suppression campaign by Governor Woods Rogers of the Bahamas would have the seen the whole pirate crew hanging from gallows in Nassau. Society is losing its tolerance for whole sale application of the death penalty and alarmed over revelations from studies like the DNA based "Innocence Project" that strongly indicate that we execute innocent people with alarming frequency. It would be far more efficient and effective if we just dropped our tendency to want to put somebody to death in such cases and eliminate the death penalty from the piracy suppression campaign. The majority of nations involved in the cooperative piracy suppression campaign don't have the death penalty and consequently have extradition problems with sending captive pirates to nations interested in trying them but possibly subjecting them to the death penalty. Who was actually responsible for the deaths of these Americans? Every member of the Pirate crew that boarded their vessel in the first place exposed the legitimate crew to the risk of violent death, and even threatened them with such.
Instead of separating the pirates, trying to rate culpability on a scale, increasing the cost to the public for trial, and the potential for beating the system as this trial may ultimately prove out ; it is time to reassert the rule of international law that makes all pirates enemies of mankind. If we are not going to hang them all , then they all should have been consigned to life in prison without parole long ago.

 To those who say such treatment might be an incentive for pirates to kill witnesses we point out that you are ignoring the de-facto "Catch and Release" Program. Where pirates are caught but no one is killed often naval forces have great difficulty in finding a jurisdiction that wants to try their prisoners. There are no more naval drum head courts hanging pirates from the yard arm. Not killing captives improves a pirate's chances of being "thrown back" by naval forces. Most often the flag state of the ship subjected to pirate attack is not the same as the flag of the naval forces making the capture. With no drum head courts its a game of "button, button, whose got the button", getting the unrepentant miscreants to trial. Absent a related murder, often the pirates are stripped of their weapons, put back in their boats and released. When we get a chance to lock them up we need to do that and not let the death penalty get in the way. This is an international security effort and the majority of the international community has taken the state out of the business of killing people. The United States, Russia , China, Singapore, Iran, may still favor the idea but the international fleet patrolling the pirate infested waters isn't dominated by these states. So if we want to rapidly eliminate pirates who have preyed on American vessels and people, our best bet would be to just take the death penalty off the table, and get these evil doers under lock and key faster and with less likelihood of catch and release.

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