I do not think there is a Great Debate here, just a factual question about international law, so I post in GQ.
A crewman kills the captain and the mate on a foreign-registered vessel on the high seas. No American citizen or interests are involved and yet the Coast Guard seize the ship in international waters and bring the man to trial in the US. Can someone explain the legality of all this? Why and how does the USA have jurisdiction? Furthermore, why would the US
want to get involved? Why not send the whole matter back to China or Taiwan?
The Boston Globe
HONOLULU - The death of a ship’s captain on the high seas has brought questions of international law and maritime labor abuse to a US court.
Shi Lei, a 21-year-old cook from China, awaits trial in federal court in Honolulu on charges of double murder and mutiny. Shi allegedly stabbed to death Captain Chen Chung-She and First Mate Li Da Feng aboard the Taiwanese-owned Full Means 2, a fishing vessel, on March 14 during an argument in which he pleaded to return home to China.
A week later, the Coast Guard intercepted the vessel 60 miles from Hilo, escorted it near Honolulu Harbor, and took Shi into custody.
His indictment last Thursday and upcoming arraignment are a highly unusual exercise of US authority in international waters, said Jay Friedheim, a proctor and advocate of admiralty law who is a consultant for Shi’s attorney and for the 30 Chinese crew members being held as material witnesses.
The United States has gone into international waters in the past to intercept drug smugglers bound for its shores, for example, but the current case is a precedent, according to Friedheim.
‘‘Near as I can tell, not since 1846 has the US gone into international waters and ordered a foreign vessel into its jurisdiction in order to prosecute a crime where there were no clear American interests,’’ he said.
I would also comment that killing people is not nice but it seems the man was held in what pretty much amounted to slavery. Remember the
The case has also thrown a spotlight on the issue of how maritime workers are treated at sea.
According to a report titled ‘‘Ships, Slaves and Competition’’ that was issued last year by the Australia-based independent International Commission on Shipping, tens of thousands of seafarers on 10 to 15 percent of the world’s ships work in ‘‘slave’’-like conditions. They clock in long hours for little or no pay, live off of meager diets, and endure rapes and beatings. Many disappear if they complain.
Pamela Byrne, Shi’s court-appointed public defender, says that he and other crewmen suffered abuse on the Full Means 2.
According to Friedheim, who is piecing together a picture from various sources, these sailors were reportedly beaten routinely for minor infractions, were denied communication with family members, received no direct payment on the ship, and were forbidden from leaving the ship for approximately 13 months.
On the day of the killings, the captain allegedly punched Shi in the face ‘‘at least 10 times’’ when Shi asked to call his mother and return home to China, Byrne said.
Friedheim said that Shi ‘‘had been asking to return home for over a year when he first learned that he wasn’t going to be able to save the money he thought he would get’’ in order to buy a house and get married.
CNN (Google’s Cache)