What Shall We Do with the Pirate Sailor?
So, what do you do when you arrest a bunch of Somali “fishermen” in two small speedboats loaded down with AK-47s and RPGs in the Gulf of Aden where pirates have come close to shutting down one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes? You let them go. Well you do if you are the Danish navy.
The problem, it seems, is that they weren’t actually caught in the act of pillaging making it difficult to prosecute them under Danish law. Or anyone’s law, presumably, given that there was no evidence they had actually done anything wrong.
“It was the lesser of two evils, for the other solution, which would have made me uneasy, would have been to hand them over to a regime where they risked being tortured and killed,” Defence Minister Soeren Gade told Denmark’s TV2 news. Gade announced the news to deputies late on Tuesday, saying that under Danish law it was not possible to prosecute them because of a lack of evidence.
This is going to be a major headache for the navies that make up Combined Task Force 150, which is trying to tackle the problem. Fine, they can act as a deterrent, protecting shipping lanes and escorting aid vessels into Somalia but arresting pirates opens up a bit of a legal conundrum. Sure, you could set up a sort of pirate Guantanamo bay – detaining people who might do something bad at some unspecified period in the future – but prosecutions are going to be problematic.
The only alternative is to hit the pirates once they’ve done some pirating and seized a vessel. So far only the French have gone down this road and it’s unlikely other countries will follow suit. In many cases the ships have a flag of convenience from one nation, a crew from another, and can be owned and operated by third and fourth parties. Who is responsible for a rescue? And anyway, why not pay the ransom and treat it as an increase in operating costs.
So expect to see the Blackwaters and Dyncorps of this world moving into maritime security (if they have not already)
But for now the pirates have the upper hand. As long as they can avoid French ships.
Canadian frigate, HMCS Ville de Quebec, is now staying on. She is extending her mission, which had been due to end on September 27, to continue escorting WFP shipments into Mogadishu.
“Millions of hungry people face a total break in their humanitarian food supply due to the scourge of pirates attacking ships,” said WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran. “Make no mistake – Canada’s generous act of extending naval protection will allow us to get food in and will save lives. We urgently call on other nations to step up to the plate.”