The US Naval Institute recently announced that the 2010 history conference will discuss the topic of piracy. Hopefully this little bit of interesting news finds its way into the discussion.
A judge on Tuesday dismissed piracy charges against six Somali nationals accused of attacking a Navy ship off the coast of Africa, concluding the U.S. government failed to make the case their alleged actions amounted to piracy.
The dismissal of the piracy count by U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson tosses the most serious charge against the men, but leaves intact seven other charges related to the alleged April 10 attack on the USS Ashland in the Gulf of Aden. A piracy conviction carries a mandatory life term.
These pirates still face other charges, but lets just go over what has happened here a second.
For those who don’t know the details, these 6 pirates tried to attack the USS Ashland off the coast of Somalia, and the USS Ashland responded by blowing their little skiff out of the water, rescuing the pirates, and arresting them on charges of piracy. The defense for the pirates was able to argue that the actions of attacking a US Navy ship accidentally – thinking it was a commercial ship they could hijack – does not qualify as the definition of piracy.
“The court finds that the government has failed to establish that any unauthorized acts of violence or aggression committed on the high seas constitutes piracy as defined by the law of nations,” Jackson wrote in granting the defense motion to dismiss.
Attorneys for the six men had argued that the men did not seize or rob the Ashland, falling short of the centuries-old definition of piracy.
I imagine it was kind of hard for the US government to make their case considering they blew the little pirate skiff out of the water for attacking the warship. By the standards this judge is setting in US courts, someone can attack a US flagged ship and as long as they can dump their equipment overboard before they are caught – anything short of a successful hijacking doesn’t quality as the definition of piracy.
The decision is intended to protect protesters like Greenpeace from being labeled pirates (but not all NGOs are Greenpeace, just ask Israel), which means now US case law is protecting the NGO which can now take the act of “protesting” US flagged ships on the high seas to a whole new level if they are smart about it.
Thankfully, Code-Pink doesn’t have a Navy… yet. This is a pretty nasty can of worms the judge has opened up because apparently, in the 21st century we cannot find a suitable definition of piracy that distinguishes Somali’s with AK-47s attacking US warships from Greenpeace activists – at least that’s how it played out in a Virginia courtroom. You really can’t make this up.