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Sticky legal battles await for captured Somali pirates

Will Kenya be tapped as the next ‘Hague’ of the high seas?

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Four more ships nabbed by pirates Tuesday in the Sea of Aden dramatizes (once more) the difficulty of nabbing pirates operating in an area three-quarters the size of the United States.

But the rise of savvy Somali pirates also presents an oceanic legal problem: no clear, practical legal regime exists for the world to capture and try pirates. And there's no reliable place to evaluate the evidence or hold them accountable for their crimes.

Where to try the young Somali pirate captured in the rescue of US Capt. Richard Phillips on April 12 points to the issue. The US may try him on American soil or in a special Kenyan pirate court. Either way, a trial would be a rarity.

In fact, most captured pirates, who are usually not kingpins anyway, are simply turned loose on or close to shore.

"The real issue is to create an international legal framework," US Coast Guard chief Adm. Thad Allen said this week. "What you really have to have is a coordinating mechanism that brings these pirates to court where they can be held accountable."


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