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calendar   Thursday - March 17, 2011

First Time In 190 Years

US Court Sentences Pirates To Life + 80 Years

First Piracy Conviction In US Since 1820



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rope would have been cheaper

Five Somali men, convicted of attacking a US Navy ship [ USS Nicholas ], have been sentenced to life in prison by a Virginia court. Tuesday’s sentencing is the harshest yet for accused pirates as the US tries to halt piracy off Africa’s coast.

The federal prosecution relied upon rarely-used 19th century maritime laws, and was the first piracy case to go to trial since the Civil War, when a New York jury deadlocked on charges against 13 Southern privateers.

The five Somali men were convicted on federal piracy charges on November 24 last year.

Prosecutors argued during trial that the five had confessed to attacking the USS Nicholas on April 1 after mistaking it for a merchant ship.


Presiding judge Mark Davis also sentenced them to an additional 80 years in prison for firearms charges in connection with the hijack attempt. The trial held at Norfolk, home port to USS Nicholas and one of the largest naval bases in the world, also witnessed the first-ever conviction by a U.S. jury in a piracy case since 1820.

Attorney Neil MacBride told reporters that the sentence pronounced by the trial court was the longest ever in a piracy case. The buccaneer convicted in 1820 was executed.


The hijacking of ships near the coast of Somalia has cost the shipping industry millions of dollars. Pirates have continued to attack foreign ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, defying an armada of warships trying to protect the key maritime route. The fight against piracy has been hampered by legal ambiguities over the appropriate venue to prosecute captured suspects.


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an appropriate venue?

The UN’s special adviser of piracy has called for $25 million to be spent on setting up special courts for suspected pirates in Somalia’s semi-autonomous enclaves of Puntland and Somaliland, as well as in Tanzania.

Jack Lang, a former French culture minister, on Tuesday recommended that the specialised courts be set up over the next eight months to begin to try some of the 90 per cent of suspected pirates who are released because nowhere can be found to try them. The courts would operate under Somali laws.

Somalia, which is in the midst of a conflict between a largely powerless government and armed groups seeking its overthrow, lacks the legal infrastructure to try pirates.

Kenya and the Seychelles have prosecuted dozens of suspects handed over by foreign navies, who patrol of the Gulf of Aden in an attempt to protect some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. However, both have said they would have difficulties coping if all the seized pirates were sent to them.

‘Pirate economy’

Lang was briefing members of the UN Security Council on the increasing threat of piracy, which costs the global economy an estimated $7 billion to $12 billion a year.

“Pirates are becoming the masters of the Indian Ocean,” he said. “The pirate economy ... is having a destabilising effect on Somalia and the entire region owing to rising prices, insecurity of energy supplies and loss of revenue.”

About 30 ships, ranging from fishing boats to bulk carriers, are currently held by Somali pirates. Around 1,900 people have been taken hostage since the end of 2008.

Lang also recommended that two special prisons be built, one in Somaliland and one in Puntland, with capacity of 500 prisoners each, with a third to be built in Puntland soon afterward. Any such project will have to be authorised by the Security Council, which took no immediate decision after listening to Lang’s oral presentation. Lang also proposed all countries should make piracy a criminal offense and impose universal jurisdiction for it, meaning they could prosecute pirates whatever their nationality and wherever the offense took place.

Phooey. Wimp solution. All nations should acknowledge that piracy at sea is a capital offense, even if it’s the one and only capital offense in the country, even if the country doesn’t have any seashore. All surviving captured pirates should be sent to a tribunal in the Seychelles, tried and then executed. The Seychelles has hundreds of tiny uninhabited islands. Rename one Gallows Island and start building gibbets. The UN pays the Seychelles government $150,000 for every pirate tried and hung and left to rot in the tropical sun.

And they’d better get a move on ...


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same old, same old, but with half a happy ending

At approximately 0730Z on 16 March, the Bulk Cargo Carrier MV SINAR KUDUS was pirated approximately 320 nautical miles North East of the island of Socotra in the Somali Basin. Within 24 hours of being taken, she was used to launch an unsuccessful attack on the MV EMPEROR.

The MV SINAR KUDUS, which is Indonesian flagged and owned, was on its way to Suez (Egypt) from Singapore when it was attacked.  Details of the attack are not known at this time but initial reports from the crew stated that 30 to 50 pirates had boarded and taken control of the vessel.  The MV SINAR KUDUS has a crew of 20, all Indonesian.

Within 24 hours of the attack, the MV SINAR KUDUS was used to launch a further attack on the Liberian flagged Bulk Carrier MV EMPEROR.  A skiff with 5 pirates on board was launched from the SINAR KUDUS and attacked the EMPEROR but was repelled by the armed force from the merchant vessel.  The EMPEROR was subsequently reported to be safe.

MV POLAR, MV IRENE SL, and several smaller hijacked vessels are currently being used as motherships. We’re barely halfway through March, and there have been at least 20 incidents so far. At least half a dozen pirate groups are operating in the western Indian Ocean. Large groups of pirates swarming the ships seems like an escalation to me.

Oh, and one hijacked ship was released, after paying ransom; the mid sized tanker MV Hannibal II and her crew was set free after more than 4 months in captivity.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 03/17/2011 at 12:07 PM   
Filed Under: • Pirates, aarrgh! •  
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