Pirates are People, Too
Naomi Norberg has a fascinating post today at IntLawGrrls about the legal treatment of modern-day pirates. I just want to point readers to a recent article in The Sunday Times about British fears that captured pirates could ask for asylum in the UK:
The Royal Navy, once the scourge of brigands on the high seas, has been told by the Foreign Office not to detain pirates because doing so may breach their human rights.
Warships patrolling pirate-infested waters, such as those off Somalia, have been warned that there is also a risk that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain.
The Foreign Office has advised that pirates sent back to Somalia could have their human rights breached because, under Islamic law, they face beheading for murder or having a hand chopped off for theft.
Britain is part of a coalition force that patrols piracy stricken areas and the guidance has troubled navy officers who believe they should have more freedom to intervene.
The guidance was sharply criticised by Julian Brazier MP, the Conservative shipping spokesman, who said: “These people commit horrendous offences. The solution is not to turn a blind eye but to turn them over to the local authorities. The convention on human rights quite rightly doesn’t cover the high seas. It’s a pathetic indictment of what our legal system has come to.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “There are issues about human rights and what might happen in these circumstances. The main thing is to ensure any incident is resolved peacefully.”
The guidance is the latest blow to the robust image of the navy. Last year 15 of its sailors were taken prisoner by the Iranians and publicly humiliated.
I don’t know whether a captured pirate could actually seek asylum, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t be protected by one of the various conventions — CAT, the ECHR, the Refugee Convention — against refoulement to a state that would likely torture him. Readers?