Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So much for international law!

The Russian Navy seems to have a refreshingly practical approach to the application of international law to pirates. The BBC reports:

Ten suspected Somali pirates captured by the Russian navy last week may have perished after their release, a defence source in Moscow has told reporters.

Marines seized them during a dramatic operation to free a hijacked Russian oil tanker far from shore, killing an 11th suspect in the gun battle.

They were released in an inflatable boat without navigational equipment.

Within an hour, contact was lost with the boat's radio beacon, the defence source said.

"It seems that they all died," the unnamed source was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.

Russia initially said the 10 pirates would be taken to Moscow to face criminal charges over the hijacking, but they were released instead because there were not sufficient legal grounds to detain them, the defence ministry in Moscow said.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Russia is a signatory, gives sovereign nations the right to seize and prosecute pirates.

Western officials were very surprised when the Russian authorities dropped plans to put the pirates on trial in Moscow, the BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Moscow.

Now there is even more surprise the pirates were set adrift in the Indian Ocean to make their own way home, he adds.

. . .

Cdr John Harbour, spokesman for the EU naval force in Somalia, Navfor, said the Russian navy had been within its rights to release the suspects.

It was, he told the BBC News website, impossible to judge their situation without knowing the details of the boat - described as an inflatable by Russian sources - and the radio beacon they had been given.

There's more at the link.

Well, that tends to sort out the problem right there, doesn't it? Wonder what sort of 'accident' happened to the boat? A collision at sea with a Russian warship, perhaps? And I'm sure Commander Harbour lived up to the best traditions of the Royal Navy, and kept a stiff upper lip and a straight face when he made his statement!



Nashville Beat said...

Actually, there is a substantial body of international and domestic law that supports the concept that pirates are by definition hostis humani generis, that is, enemies of all mankind. Accordingly, because of their outlaw conduct, pirates put themselves outside protection of the law. 4 WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, COMMENTARIES 71.

"Historically, when a pirate was found outside the jurisdiction of a country, international law allowed the aggrieved nation to hold summary proceedings in international space. Accordingly, any nation could intercept a pirate on the high seas, hang him and take or sink his vessel. Due process notions were at their weakest when no other country had to be invaded to seize the suspect, and where the suspect was otherwise capable of flight (citing United States v. Smith, 18 U.S. (5 Wheat) 153 (1820))." This observation is quoted from a very interesting article in the journal of the Arizona Bar Association written by then JAG Captain Jon M. Paladini. Paladini, "Terrorism: War on Piracy?", Arizona Attorney (February 2004).

Interestingly, the thrust of Paladini's article is a very persuasive argument that the better way to address modern terrorism is not to treat it as ordinary crime, but to classify it as piracy -- crimes against humanity -- and deal with it just as the civilized world dealt with piracy the last time it was a problem: find them and hang them.

Works for me.

DaddyBear said...

I've always thought that having a yardarm party within sight of their home village would be a great deterrent to continued bad behavior. But if the sharks are happy, then I'm happy.

Shrimp said...

When I was discussing this with my brother, he was convinced that the Russians would want everyone to know if they killed the pirates, and he wasn't so sure that they had. The Russians used to operate under the "we're badass, don't mess with us" doctrine, despite the media and other countries' poo-pooing such behavior. In fact, through the eighties, they seemed to relish the negative attention.

Myself, I think that the Russians learned that the best thing to do in such a situation is keep your mouth shut, and if you say anything, say something like "we had to let them go, and no, we don't know what happened to them after we let them go. Gee, it sure is a mystery."

Either way, the pirates get the message because they got nothing from the ship they attacked and their comrades did not come back. Next time, they'll avoid a Russian ship, or suffer the same consequences.

From the Russian's perspective, they don't have to worry about international pressure to treat the pirates humanely, or pay for their trial, or feed them. In fact, it solves the problem perfectly.

Geodkyt said...

"Chief Starshina (CPO), we need to give our guests a boat. One we won't miss, and won't hurt our readiness. Where's that leaky inflatable the depot refuses to exchange?"