Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pirate Complications

I was told recently by a piracy expert that one reason many Western countries are not eager to try captured Somali pirates in their courts is that once a defendant is brought ashore, his family will request that they be brought to that country--and that once a suspect gets into the judicial system, he'll never leave. This is why they prefer using Kenyan courts or, if those captured had not successfully taken over a vessel, the "catch and release" method.

I read with interest that today, the mother of the pirate apprehended after the rescue of the captain of the M/V Alabama, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Musi, has asked to be flown to New York, where her son is to be arraigned today. Is that proof of my colleague's theory?

Although a single case doesn't prove a trend, I've often come across the point your colleague makes. The whole culture of human rights law that Western forces find it necessary to consider raises the opportunity costs of apprehending pirates. Even if not strictly true, the perception guides behavoir as we see in so many other situations. "Catch and release" is one response. Just not getting involved in a no-win situation becomes another.
Does US law compel the government to bring members of the defendant’s family to the United States if they so request? Otherwise, this sounds like an urban legend to me. Any lawyers out there?

Of course the financial cost of providing a fair trial for a defendant could be pretty steep. (Interpreters for starters.)
Jun, nothing compels the U.S. to do this, but when you have a minor in custody, there is a preference for having a parent or family member near--that is what I have been told.
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