Tuesday, November 3, 2009

France and "Suspected" Pirates

An article in today's Los Angeles Times further illustrates the impact of blind legalism on anti-piracy efforts. France has asked the Seychelles Islands to prosecute "suspected" pirates. Why the quotes around "suspected"?

This month, 11 suspected pirates were captured after they tried to attack French tuna boats. The Somalis were released shortly afterward due to a lack of evidence.
That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? If they tried to attack tuna boats, that sure seems like not only evidence, but proof of piracy. So why were they released?
Bringing to justice suspected Somali pirates captured by international navies in the Indian Ocean has proven difficult as lawless Somalia cannot try them, while most European countries do not want to take in a suspected pirate who may then claim asylum.
Here the article again falsely refers to actual pirates as "suspected." These are individuals captured in the act of piracy.  They are not suspects in any sense, except in a narrow legal one.

Just as wars cannot be fought by lawyers, neither can piracy. It is no accident that all the naval power assembled against it seems to make little dent in the problem. Effective action against piracy is crippled by blind, legalistic idiocy. For centuries the penalty for being captured in an act of piracy was well-known: summary execution. Pirates were rightly seen as a type of vermin that plagued international shipping, and a threat to the commerce of all civilized nations. But today, not only do we not execute them, we pretend that they are suspects who need access to our legal systems, defense by lawyers -- at taxpayer expense -- and every other consideration, as if they were citizens of whatever country apprehends them.

If we are too squeamish and stupid to carry out well-justified summary executions -- which we are -- let's do the next best thing. Instead of capturing pirates in the act of attacking shipping, just kill them instead. That will remove all the self-inflicted legal problems. 

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