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Parlaying with Pirates

Duncan Hollis over at OpinioJuris takes a look at the strange and peculiar legal case of Abduwali Muse, the Somali pirate captured during the raid on the Maersk Alabama.  Muse is in the United States and will be tried there, charged with piracy, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, discharging a firearm during a ship seizure, conspiracy to commit hostage taking and brandishing a firearm during a hostage taking. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

One of his American lawyers has, at least in comments to the media, attempted to invoke the legal doctrine of perfidy, which is basically when the enemy is taken into confidence and then killed or captured.  And whilst this may look to be what happened to Muse, who was on-board the USS Bainbridge, ostensibly to negotiate an end to the situation.  Or maybe he was also there to get medical attention.  But Hollis notes that whilst Muse was on the Bainbridge, the rest of the pirates were raided, and the American sailor, Capt. Phillips, was freed.  Hollis notes that this ended the need for negotiations.  However, whilst I am no lawyer, it would seem to me that Muse may have been on the Bainbridge in confidence of negotiations and then was captured after the raid to free Phillips.  That, it would seem to me, is still perfidious.

However, more to the point, Hollis points out that perfidy is not covered by the Geneva Conventions, amongst other things.  

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Reader Comments (2)

Not so fast - circumstances changed mid-stream. The three holding Phillips were making moves with their weapons as if to execute him. It was at that point that the SEAL snipers were given the green light to take them down. Given that one of the pirates had ostensibly gone aboard the Bainbridge to negotiate, such moves on the part of the remainder of his colleagues to execute a hostage would seem to suggest an inversion of the perfidy argument. Where was the good faith, exactly? You're too forgiving of the pirates, and too quick to judgment of the Bainbridge crew.

Apr 25, 2009 at 12:18 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Point taken.

Apr 26, 2009 at 12:36 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Matthew Barlow

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