Something more than a three-hour tour : rules for detention and treatment of persons at sea on U.S. naval warships
Winston G. McMillan
Host item entries:
Army Lawyer, February 2011, p. 31-45
United States naval warships travel the seas executing missions vital to U.S. national interests. During periods of armed conflict and in peacetime, U.S. naval warships may occasionally detain persons in order to accomplish the mission and to provide security on the seas. For example in May 2009, when Somali pirates attacked a container vessel, the Maersk Alabama, and held the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips hostage on a small lifeboat. In response, the United States sent an amphibious assault ship, the USS Boxer (LHD-4), a destroyer, the USS Bainbridge (DDG-96), and a frigate, the USS Halyburton (FFG-40) to rescue the hostage. A U.S. Navy SEAL team from the USS Boxer killed three of the pirates. The remaining pirate surrendered and was detained aboard the Bainbridge. Piracy on the high seas is not the only peacetime scenario which can lead to detaining persons at sea. Illegal narcotics trafficking, international terrorism, asylum-seekers, and refugees are on the rise and can present similar challenges for our naval forces. These circumstances require a thorough understanding of the rules for detention of persons at sea for the judge advocate advising commanders within the sea services.
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