Gregarious Son has begun the three day journey home from his summer internship as a judicial clerk in Seychelles. Tonight's (it's late afternoon there at the moment) flight takes him from Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, to Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates. Tomorrow it's on to London, and then Friday back to the U.S. I have no idea how he found a motel room in London this week, but he managed.
He's had an extraordinary summer assisting in two piracy cases. Each of them raised controversial issues of jurisdiction - the court's authority over the defendants - since the laws governing these cases are largely new, vague, and untried. Here's what he had to say about the resolution of the trial just concluded:
"It has been an historic day for piracy cases. We had the judgment and sentencing for the second case that I have been working on. Due to a technicality about the age a person must be before he can commit a crime in the eyes of the law, an eleven year old suspect was acquitted. This is the first time that any of the piracy suspects brought for international prosecution have been acquitted. Since he could not remain in custody, there was total chaos as the authorities tried to figure out what to do with him. His lawyer, who doesn't trust the police not to take him back to jail, actually took the kid with him during the lunch break. One more, who is only twelve, cannot be sentenced to jail and was convicted and released on condition. He is to be deported and can never return to Seychelles. Three other juvenile suspects between 14-18 were sentenced to two and half years. The eight adults each got 12 years. The case is guaranteed to cause a lot of controversy here and abroad."
It strikes me that these cases represent the utter brokenness of the human condition. Five children, two of them not yet teenagers, were captured somewhere in the Indian Ocean where they were allegedly engaged in international crimes of piracy. Kid who should be racing up and down a soccer field were drawn into an activity borne of desperation, poverty, and chaos. They ended up in a little boat in a big ocean with a lot of guns on hand and a criminal trial awaiting them.
We don't have to give them much thought. Their activities took place half a world away, and we are properly outraged when law-abiding naval, commercial, tourist, and private vessels are attacked by armed desperadoes. But these kids . . . .
I asked what will happen now to the two who have been released, and Matt responded that it's unclear. "The UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime - yes, I had to look it up) agreed to pay for their repatriation but the IMO (International Maritime Organization - that one, too) or Red Cross has to find their families first."
So on an island halfway between Africa and India, two boys tried for piracy await someone finding their parents -- in Somalia, a nation that could be generously described as serving as the definition for the term "disarray."
I wonder how London will seem to the young man who has spent his summer in another world.
Image: Reuters photo of Somali pirate suspects.