Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Catch and Release

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Catch and Release

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Fighting Pirates: The Pen and the Sword" by James Kraska and Brian Wilson, in World Policy Journal, Winter 2008-09.

CRIMINAL GANGS OPERATING out of a failed state with a population the size of greater Chicago captured at least 97 ships, kidnapped 600 seamen, and raised insurance rates in the Gulf of Aden last year from about $500 to as much as $20,000 for a single trip. But the solution to piracy off the coast of Somalia, according to U.S. Navy lawyers James Kraska and Brian Wilson, isn't simply sending in a few more warships. It is nearly impossible to police 2.5 million square miles of ocean. What is needed is not only the sword but the pen-better communications, faster legal responses, and improved treaties.

The typical vessel attacked by Somali pirates is registered in one nation (such as Greece), owned by a corporation in another nation (such as South Korea), and operated by a crew hailing from other places (such as the Philippines and Pakistan), and it is transporting cargo owned by corporations based in the United States and elsewhere. Chances are that the protective vessel that foils the attack will be from yet another country (such as India or Denmark), or be manned by a private military security contractor (such as Blackwater, based in North Carolina). The multiple jurisdictions blur the lines of legal responsibility for bringing suspected pirates to justice.

National interests are so entangled that some countries have adopted what is derisively called a "catch and release" policy. Last September, the Danish Navy dropped off 10 captured pirates on a beach because jurisdiction was unclear and Somalia lacked the ability to prosecute them. In 2006, the U.S. Navy blew up a fishing vessel after the pirates piloting it fired on two U.S. warships. When the fishing craft caught fire, U.S. seamen had to rescue 12 Somalis, five of them wounded, provide the men with medical treatment, and hold them aboard ships without functional brig facilities for several months before the U.S. government decided not to prosecute them and set them free.

The long-term answer to regional piracy, write Kraska and Wilson, is the establishment of law and order in Somalia, which has been without a functioning government since 1991. In the meantime, piracy must be fought by "coordination, not kinetic action aimed at sinking pirate mother ships and destroying coastal havens." Shipping nations must develop agreements to temporarily detain suspected pirates, make victims and witnesses available, and sort out where a case will be prosecuted-before incidents occur. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.