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Piracy News & Commentary

Piracy Charges Dropped

Piracy charges have been dropped against six Somalis who attacked the USS Ashland in April 2010. Under US law, a pirate is a sea thief. If he "merely" attempts piracy, he is not a pirate. However, in the popular mind and historical tradition, not to mention to my own mind, a pirate is anyone who steals at sea or steals ashore from the sea (including hostage taking), or attempts to do so, or uses violence to facilitate theft or attempts at theft.

The prosecutors should have done their homework, for they "argued that any unauthorized armed attack or violent act on open waters should qualify as piracy." This definition is far too broad, and such acts are covered by other laws. They should have argued that even attempted piracy--attempted sea theft or acts intended to facilitate it--fits the bill, although this likely would have failed too, given the US definition. The Somalis still face other charges. The law of piracy needs revision, including issues relating to jurisdiction. (Sources: BBC, AP, et al)
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