Following the November 2008 pirate attack on the Danish merchant ship CEC Future, interpreter and negotiator Ali Mohamed Ali was arrested and charged in the United States with four inchoate offenses related to his actions aboard the ship: conspiracy to commit piracy on the high seas, aiding and abetting piracy on the high seas, conspiracy to commit hostage taking, and aiding and abetting hostage taking. Using the Charming Betsy canon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the charge of aiding and abetting piracy was improperly dismissed because Ali’s actions did not have to be committed on the high seas. Using the same analysis, the court reached the opposite conclusion for the conspiracy to commit piracy charge—holding that it was properly dismissed by the district court. Addressing the hostage taking charges, the court rejected Ali’s due process argument, reversing the lower court, and held that he could have reasonably anticipated being haled into court. Though the future utility of this ruling is unclear, the court’s focus on the interplay between domestic and international law provides important modern precedent as the international community fights to end piracy across the globe.
Lindsay R. Grossman,
Down with the Ship: The Prosecution of Piratical Acts in United States v. Ali,
B.C. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev.
E. Supp. 28