Saturday, March 27, 2010

Is Justice Private?

Somali pirates have increasingly been attacking international ships in the past few years, and though there have been few deaths of civilians, there is some large concern over the safety of ship crews and the need for commerce to continue in the world even at the risk of death of pirates. Shipping continues despite the threat of Somali piracy. Now it comes to guns. Is it right or wrong to defend shipping and crews from violent, maybe not-so-violent, Somali pirates? After all, Somali pirates hardly ever kill civilians in the course of their attacks. Should we kill them anyway? And who has such a right-- if we do determine to kill Somali pirates? Do civilians have such a lawful right? Isn't it murder? Maybe, because Somalis do so little actual violence, and because they are driven to it by illegal dumping of toxic waste by capitalists who blithely poison Somali fishing grounds, the natives are simply getting some just but otherwise unforthcoming economic justice, and the capitalists are over-reacting to some poor fishermen who simply want to live and feed their families.

KATHARINE HOURELD, "Private guards kill Somali pirate for first time," A.P.

NAIROBI, Kenya — Private security guards shot and killed a Somali pirate during an attack on a merchant ship off the coast of East Africa in what is believed to be the first such killing by armed contractors, the EU Naval Force spokesman said Wednesday.

The death comes amid fears that increasingly aggressive pirates and the growing use of armed private security contractors onboard vessels could fuel increased violence on the high seas. ...

[A] pirate group approached it twice, said EU Naval Force spokesman Cmdr. John Harbour. During the second approach on the Panamanian-flagged cargo ship which is United Arab Emirates owned, there was an exchange of fire between the guards and the pirates.

[S]even pirates were found, including one who had died from small caliber gunshot wounds, indicating he had been shot by the contractors, said Harbour. The six remaining pirates were taken into custody.

Crews are becoming increasingly adept at repelling attacks by pirates in the dangerous waters of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. But pirates are becoming more aggressive in response, shooting bullets and rocket-propelled grenades at ships to try to intimidate captains into stopping.

Several organizations, including the International Maritime Bureau, have expressed fears that the use of armed security contractors could encourage pirates to be more violent when taking a ship. Sailors have been hurt or killed before but this generally happens by accident or through poor health. There has only been one known execution of a hostage despite dozens of pirate hijackings.


Pirate attacks have not declined despite patrols by dozens of warships off the Somali coast. ...

If a ship and crew are attacked by pirates, do the former have a right to defend themselves by force, violence, and killing? Do civilians have a right to use the services of private security guards to do the fighting for them? Who over-sees the legitimacy of the private security forces? Can we allow "cowboys" of the sea to simply shoot and kill anyone they say is guilty of piracy on the high-seas? Isn't this a matter of murder of victims just trying to live?

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