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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: June 2015

8 - Pirates' Right to a Speedy Trial




This chapter examines the principle of “speedy trial rights” for accused parties through a survey of domestic criminal courts, international criminal courts, and regional human rights tribunals, such as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the American and the African human rights systems. It is this chapter's ultimate conclusion that the guarantee of a speedy trial or a trial within a reasonable time is a general principal law. Consequently, all piracy-prosecuting nations should continue to respect suspected pirates’ speedy trial rights; doing otherwise could jeopardize the legacy and legitimacy of national piracy prosecutions.

In the first section, this chapter examines the right to a speedy trial for the accused under domestic law. In particular, this section focuses on an examination of domestic laws and constitutions in order to assess whether they contain a guarantee of a speedy trial. This section also examines the constitutions of piracy-prosecuting nations, such as Kenya, the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Tanzania, and it concludes that many national constitutions, including those of the countries just mentioned, contain the right to a speedy trial for the criminally accused. Next, this chapter examines the concept of speedy trial rights under international law by focusing on a survey of speedy trial rights in international treaties and in the statutes of international tribunals; it also discusses some of the most relevant case law decided by international tribunals on the issue of speedy trial rights. The subsequent section focuses on the relationship between indictments and speedy trial rights: indictments that are overly broad may lead to unreasonable delays in proceedings and may undermine defendants’ speedy trial rights, but indictments that are overly narrow may result in generally unfair proceedings vis-à-vis the victims. Next, this chapter addresses the issue of which standard or legal test should govern the determination of whether a defendant's speedy trial rights have been violated; in order to do so, this section reviews relevant case law from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and from the ECHR.