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Punishment of Pirates Must Be Inevitable

01.12.2011 11:54

Alexander Novik

Almost every day news agencies report on another pirate attack on merchant vessels off the African coast. In this regard, the world community seeks ways to improve the fight against pirates in order that legal and other prosecution and punishment for piratical robbery at sea should be inevitable.

The problem of piracy attacks on merchant ships in the sea continues unabated. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), since 2011 in the oceans more than 350 pirate attacks on ships have been evidenced, which is a record: compared to the same period in 2010, it increased by almost a quarter (22%). Most often, the ships are seized for ransom off the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden. As a result of the attacks 8 sailors were killed, 41 were injured, and 625 people were held hostage. The activities of Somali pirates only damage the global economy in an amount of US$12.7 billion annually.

According to One Earth Future Foundation Research Center (OEF), insurance payments account for the largest share of the cost of these funds. Next comes the cost of re-routing ships to avoid the ?risk zones?. The Center experts? report also says that the total amount of ransom for the vessels was about US$148 million. The biggest ransom was paid for the MT Samho Dream South Korean tanker ? US$9.5 million.

What is the world community doing to put an end to this evil? Active anti-piracy actions were initiated in 2008 following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1838, under which the states received permission to use naval and air force to fight piracy in the area of Somalia. On December 8, 2008 the European Union began to conduct an anti-piracy operation Atalanta, resulted in a safe passage of ships with more than 70 thousand tons of humanitarian aid to Somalia according to the UN World Food Program.

The EU operation Atalanta continues at the present time. From 13 August to December 2011, the operation has been headed by Germany. Currently, within the framework of Operation Atalanta, ships of Germany, Spain, Portugal and Greece are operating, as well as three maritime reconnaissance aircraft from Spain and Luxembourg.

In accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 851 of December 16, 2008, in January 2009, 24 states (now they are 35), representatives of five international organizations, including regional ones, created a Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. The Contact Group, in turn, has established four working groups gathering together as often as necessary to make appropriate decisions on the following areas: coordination of military and operational decisions; drug-related aspects of combating piracy; problems of safety of navigation; diplomatic and informational support to combating piracy in all directions.

The Contact Group in full force meets four times a year in New York at the UN Headquarters. Representatives of the Group member states preside by turn over the meeting. In January 2009, a Combined Task Force 151 was formed to counter the attacks of pirates.

The Russian Federation is active in the fight against piracy. In April 2010, on our initiative, UN Security Council Resolution on ensuring the effective prosecution of piracy was adopted. The resolution suggests the member states of the organization to pass laws that would speed up the prosecution for robbery at sea. The paper also highlights the need for special tribunals against pirates in Somalia and other east African countries. The resolution notes the importance of establishing such courts, which would have the ?jurisdiction not only against suspected, captured in the sea persons, but also against any persons engaged in intentional incitement or support of piracy operations, including key figures in the criminal networks involved in piracy who plan, organize, support or finance such attacks and derive an illegal profit therefrom.?

Other measures are also proposed to strengthen the fight against piracy. For example, IMB director Pottengal Mukundan recommends "increasing the number of warships patrolling the troubled waters.? However, experts doubt that it will radically change the situation.

Anatoly Kolodkin, President of the Russian Association of Maritime Law, and other legal scholars from different countries support the proposal of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to establish ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for piracy, which would act according to common standards and norms of criminal procedural nature. A.Kolodkin and other legal scholars believe that further archaic legal proceedings in piracy cases in various countries by different standards is not effective and does not give proper results, while common international standards in legal matters in counter-piracy ? is a long overdue problem.

Fighting piracy is increasingly becoming the subject of various international meetings, conferences, including those at the highest level. Thus, in September in Newport (USA), the 20th International Seapower Symposium was held, at which the piracy topic was the main one. The symposium was attended by 115 commanders of the Navy, including the delegation of the Russian Navy, led by the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky.

Meanwhile, the ship owners have found their own way to defend against pirates: they on their own initiative, as the laws are not clear cut in this regard, they hire private armed guards, and when organizing trips of merchant ships they do not depend on the schedule of the convoys, accompanied by warships. They say that traffic control also brings financial saving. Such a method of ship security gives some positive results - the share of pirate attacks, which had been crowned with success, dropped from 25% to 10%. And according to Peter Cook, founder of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry, Somali pirates have been unable so far to seize any vessel having its own armed guards.

In view of the promising outlook of the merchant ships guarding themselves, according to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the British ship-owners will be able to centrally employ armed guards to protect ships from pirates. The UK Ministry of Internal Affairs will deal with licensing of security agencies.

The German authorities also intend to entrust the protection of German ships from pirate attacks to armed officers of private security companies. It is planned that the federal police will check the private security companies for the efficiency and reliability of their work, and the Ministry of Economy of Germany will give an activity license to firms which have passed inspection.

There are other initiatives to strengthen the fight against piracy and ensure the inevitability of punishment for their robbery. However, the situation is such that in the coming years there may be new records for the number of pirate attacks. First, in Somalia the internal political situation continues to worsen, threatening the country with collapse, deterioration of the socio-economic conditions of life, stability of public construction. Secondly, groupings of Somali pirates are building up their military potential. They invest money from criminal enterprise in purchase of weapons, while their so-called ?mother ships? are already equipped with many types of man-portable rocket launchers, and other weapons. Thirdly, the pirates are improving tactics of their pirate attacks. For example, during attacks on merchant ships, pirates began to use transport for livestock. These means of transport usually do not arouse suspicion allowing the pirates to come to their victims to the closest distance.

In general, in view of the continuing plunder of pirates off the coast of Somalia and elsewhere in the world ocean, search for further ways to improve the fight against this evil, to ensure the inevitability of punishment of pirates is still an urgent task of the world community.