Kids: Pirates Are Not Cool

Despite what the Prince Across the Water, David T may have said, pirates are not cool. They do not have the slightly epicene-look of Captain Jack, but are ugly buggers; and menaces to international shipping and ordinary passersby alike to boot.

As non-state actors, it often can be expected that there will be a domestic judiciary and reliable system of rule-of-law to monitor and restrain them. As such, I would hope there is a supra-national framework which exists to try those involved with piracy and brigandage.

Fortunately there is. For the first time in three centuries, a pirate trial has opened in Europe. Twenty two Somali pirates who boarded the Germany registered MS Taipan off the Horn of Africa in April are facing up to 15 years from a Hamburg court.

The failures surrounding the detention of minor insurgents, hard-core jihadists and Brummie tourists seeking the perfect roti at Guantanamo Bay were myriad. Legislation against piracy and brigandage existed beforehand, and could have provided a more convincing framework for dealing with such attacks on international shipping and operating from unofficial statelets.

The principal benefit of this would have been to avoid the legislative quagmire which was the ex jure status of Guantanamo Bay: although not stroking the egos and wallets of otherwise mediocre QCs and even more common lawyers would not have been unwelcome.

Whatever happens as a result of the Hamburg trial, German courts should soon be considering other cases. Just as these raiders found an apparently deserted ship (the crew were secure in a panic room), followed by a helicopter-raid by Dutch Marines who quickly subdued them, another pirate crew attacking the MV Magellan Star in September was promptly apprehended by US Marines.

On finding the deserted ship, these latter pirates made a satellite call to the headquarters of the shipping line in Germany, demanding to know where the crew was.

German operators informed them that the crew was on leave. And laughed.

With such overt threats to their own citizens and business interests, European politicians and legislators may be more sympathetic to the US court system which also is trying pirates as pirates for the first time since the USMC marched to the shores of Tripoli. Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, the sole surviving member of the pirate crew which attacked the MV Maersk Alabama in September 2009 is awaiting sentencing following his trial in New York.

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