Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pirate Issues

With the resolution of the piracy standoff off the coast of Somalia this weekend, the United States now finds itself in possession of the lone surviving perpetrator. Will be be tried criminally in the United States or turned over to other authorities? This article over at the Christian Science Monitor details some of the issues prosecuting him in the US would raise:

The case offers President Obama an opportunity to punctuate the Navy's swift military response Sunday with an equally bold legal response – by affording the Somali suspect the full protections of a United States court of law. The concern is that aggressive US defense lawyers might tie up the case in a flurry of motions – including questions about the suspect's potential status as a minor.

'Everyone agrees that pirates are bad, but the issue is what are you going to do with them,' says Michael Passman, a lawyer with the Chicago firm Cassiday Schade and author of articles on piracy and the law.

Justice Department officials declined to comment Monday on the status of the case, and whether the suspect would eventually be sent to the US for trial. One matter that could complicate the case is the pirate's age. Defense officials estimate that all four alleged pirates were between the ages of 17 and 19. Under international and US law, younger defendants are generally not held to the same level of culpability as adults. Proving the precise age of the suspected pirate may be difficult, given the level of disorder in Somalia.
I tend to think that, given this was a US-flagged ship that was hijacked and the hostage was a US citizen, that we have a responsibility to lead any prosecution of the remaining perpetrator. There's no reason we can't do it. Fear that defense lawyers might, *gasp*, do their jobs and zealously represent the guy doesn't cut it.

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