Treat Pirates as Terrorists

Frustration at the failure of the multinational naval forces operating in the Horn of Africa area to contain the piracy problem off Somalia has led to the Asian Shippers’ Council (ASC) issuing a strong statement calling for pirates to be treated as terrorists and for their leaders to be “taken out”.

According to an ASC spokesperson “In spite of the presence of a multinational naval force, the piracy problem in Somalia has deteriorated.” The spokesperson added that “There is growing fear that Somali pirates are in cohorts with al-Qaeda affiliates operating in the region. Therefore governments should give the pirates their due – treat them in the same manner as terrorists. They should empower the navies to take appropriate measures.”

The ASC fears Somalis “may be in cohorts with al-Qaeda” and that “Pirates are criminals who operate outside the law. They have endangered the lives of seafarers, jeopardised the livelihoods of ship-owners and impaired international trade.” The ASC stated that it believes that Somali pirates were working in tandem with al-Qaeda teams and that it was now time for the competent organisations and entities to go on the offensive.

The ASC spokesperson said that “By making examples of some through decisive action, we can deter many more from taking to a life of piracy, thereby crippling the network.”

In many cases actually prosecuting captured pirates has resulted as being very difficult. A spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defence recently stated that “Unless international navies actually capture men undertaking an act of piracy, there is a very limited legal basis – almost non-existent – on which they can be prosecuted for piracy.” It is calculated that EU and NATO naval forces have captured and then released over 700 pirates in the past few months alone.

The ASC has stated that “The time has come for countries and the international community to review laws preventing them from bringing the pirates to justice.”

According to the International Maritime Bureau there are currently 28 vessels and 587 hostages still detained off Somalia.

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Mark Lowe, Wednesday 30 March 2011

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