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Should The Surviving Somali Pirate Be Tried…In Juvenile Court?

Piracy On The High Seas Is Not Joyriding

It’s so hard to do satire these days, because the truth is so often beyond parody. The last of the heavily-armed pirates who stormed the Maersk Alabama, held a paralyzed U.S. Navy at bay for three days and repeatedly threatened to execute their hostage unless they were paid millions in ransom may well be tried in the United States for piracy. This is probably the right call, since this is piracy against American ships, although really it would have been better if all the pirates had been killed on the spot. Where this gets bizarre is the suggestion that an act of piracy on the high seas should be treated as a juvenile crime because the pirates reportedly were somewhere between age 16 and 20:

Jo Becker, a D.C.-based advocate for Human Rights Watch, said if the pirate suspect is in fact 16 or 17 years old, “he would certainly be entitled to protections under international law that allow for lower culpability of juveniles involved in crimes.”

Becker says international law recognizes that people under 18 are “less developed, less mature, and more easily manipulated by adults.”

Ideally, Becker said, an underage suspect would be tried in a juvenile court, with special protections given his age. “He would need to have access to family members. Throughout the whole process, there needs to be a special view to his rehabilitation,” she added.

People like Ms. Becker are precisely why it’s a bad idea to take anybody alive in these situations. And of course, concern about pressure from the ‘international community’ may come into play:

Kenneth Randall, dean of the University of Alabama School of Law, said the suspect’s age may not affect where or how he is charged, but is likely to impact his eventual sentence.

“When it comes to international attention, they do have to be mindful of the mitigating circumstances of his age,” said Randall.

Yes, I look forward to a Somali pirate becoming the next Mumia or Zacarias Moussaoui. Hooray for us lawyers!

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