Saturday, June 9, 2012

USA Re-defines Piracy

The US Court of Appeal has held that unsuccessful attacks on boats is piracy.

On May 23rd the US Court of Appeal upheld sentences of life + 80 years imprisonment for five Somali men convicted in November 2010 of piracy against a US navy frigate; the court also sent another case back to a lower court to be retried.

It is alleged that the five men sentenced to life plus 80 years had, in April 2010, fired at the USS Nicholas, a warship that had been disguised as a merchant ship. The Somali men had been captured and transported to the US where they had been tried for piracy, found guilty and sentenced. At the same time, there had been another court case with very similar circumstances and even in the same month: in April 2010 a group of Somali men had approached but not boarded the USS Ashland. The men were captured and taken to the US for trial. One man plead guilty and was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment, the others had piracy charges against them dismissed as the men had not taken control of or robbed the ship. The US Court of Appeal sent that case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

Thus it is now clear in US law that piracy does not have to actually involve boarding or robbing a vessel, piracy can be a threat of an attack.

In the meantime, prosecution continue to say that they want the death penalty for the remaining three Somali men still awaiting trial for the hi-jacking of the US yacht Quest in February 2011. During that incidence, the four Americans on board the boat were killed.