Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Acquitted in France

On 30 November five Somali men were sentenced in France to between four and eight years for hi-jacking a French yacht in 2008. One man was acquitted. Prosecutors have appealed and that means that the acquitted man, the father of a now seven year-old boy, must stay in France in a state of limbo. The new court case could be up to nine months away.

On the day he was acquitted, the prison, where he had been remanded, called the court translator to come and collect him - there was no one else there to support him and he was scared to leave the prison. He was finally released at night into the streets of Paris with only his prison earnings, and with no papers, no work permit and knowing only a few words of French. He was lucky he had the translator to help him.

He had arrived, hooded and hand-cuffed, in France three years earlier. The only glimpses of France he had were from his cell window and during transportation to and from the court case. He says that he "guessed it was a country where there was light everywhere, a fertile country where it rained all the time." He said that on television he watched football and managed to learn a few words of French.

On release, three years after he was arrested, he still has the scars from the handcuffs and the memory that on that day the man next to him was shot  dead by the French troops.

Now he has applied for asylum and must wait for another courtcase.

Monday, December 26, 2011

South Korea Up-date

South Korea announced in the week before Christmas that it has extended its anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia for one more year. Cheonghae, the name of the mission, was the first ever over-seas deployment of South Korean navy forces.

It is also interesting to note that one of Cheonghae's first roles in May 2009 involved the 'rescuing' of a North Korean ship. It is also interesting that despite the growing tensions in the South China Sea and the accusations by South Korea that China is aiding piracy there, China and South Korea continue to work together in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

And in the same week that the mission was extended, the South Korean Supreme Court heard the appeal against sentencing by a group of Somali men. The five were convicted of hi-jacking a South Korean ship in January 2011, one man was sentenced to life and the other four were sentenced to between 12 to 15 years each. The appeal was denied and the sentences were upheld.

It would have been an interesting court case, the South Korean courts were unable to find a Somali / Korean translator - instead there were four translators: one Somali (Somali/English), two Koreans (English/Korean) and one Korean University Professor to translate Arabian into Korean.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Court cases continue

Nine Somali men have now been sentenced to life imprisonment in the USA for the hijacking of a US yacht in February 2011, two more men are yet to be sentenced and three are defending the charges. These three face the death penalty if convicted.

Those sentenced to prison have also been ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution.

Earlier this year, in May, the US courts sentenced Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, a 15-year old, to 33 years and nine months in prison. He was tried as an adult despite evidence that he was only a young teenager and despite the fact that the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, confirmed the group that Muse was part of were "untrained teenagers with heavy weapons."  The other three teenagers in the group were killed by US snipers.

Muse is not the only teenager sentenced or facing trial in foreign lands. In the Netherlands one of the people sentenced there said he was only 13 years old, so-called expert tests put his age at between 14 and 15 years.

In Germany, ten Somali are being tried in a Hamburg juvenile court as three of the group are teenagers.

In Japan a teenager is to be tried in a youth court, the three others in the group will be tried as adults.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Any Somali on the sea is a pirate"

On 7th December the Deputy Commander of the EU NavFor  (Atalanta) officially handed over to the Djibouti navy six outboard motors that had been confiscated from suspected Somali 'pirates'.

It is not uncommon for Somali fishermen to complain about harassment from both the foreign military vessels in their waters and the illegal fishing boats (the IUUs). In July the Italian Navy was linked with the disappearance of three Somali fishermen (Somali Report, 5/07/2011)
Locals have said that the military ships don't differentiate between so-called pirates and fishermen, "It appears that as far as the naval forces are concerned any Somali on the sea is a pirate."

Read more about the foreign military campaigns, the IUUs and the illegal fishing going on in the Horn of Africa.

Another US drone gone

Iran is not the only place that the US has lost a drone. On December 13th a US drone crashed at the international airport in Seychelles.
The drone is one of several that are part of an American military-base in the Seychelles. The US has had a base in the Seychelles since 2009 and the drones are used to surveil both Somalia and the Horn of Africa - the pre-text being to combat piracy. However, they are not used to track or catch the IUUs present in Somali waters, nor are they used to catch the ships that dump toxic waste in the waters off Somalia, waste that comes mainly from European countries and Australia.
It is interesting to note also that just this month, the Seychelles invited China to also open a military base there. Again the pre-text being anti-piracy.
The Horn of Africa continues to be one of the most militarised ocean areas of the world.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Warships Currently Present

Warships present in the Horn of Africa on 8 Dec. 2011:
Australia, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the UK and the USA.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

UN on IUUs

Resources are seemingly pouring non-stop into campaigns such as Atalanta, CTF-151 and Operation Ocean Shield, and the independent navies continue to patrol the Horn of Africa.

But not much action occurs against the IUUs (Illegal, Unreported and Unregistered fishing vessels).

This week the UN General Assembly in New York expressed concern:
... that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing constituted a serious threat to fish stocks and marine habitats and ecosystems, putting the economies of many States — particularly developing States, who were frequently the most vulnerable to risks related to climate change and economic crises — in danger.
However, it is just a concern. There is no hard action to be taken against these pirate vessels.

(Links to information about IUUs can be found on this page.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Atalanta, continuing to 2014?

The role of Atalanta was discussed at a recent EU Defence meeting in Brussels. Apparently they do not think they have enough war ships around the Horn of Africa and the 'Euro-crisis' may mean only a 1 – 2% increase in the Atalanta budget. Maybe it is in reaction to this, that they have decided to extend the use of Atalanta military forces on civilian ships.

It was also decided to consider extending Atalanta until the end of 2014, currently it is due to end in December, 2012. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

'Pirates' sentenced in Paris

On Wednesday, 30 November, five Somali men were sentenced in France to between four and eight years for hijacking a French yacht and taking the crew hostage in September 2008, three years ago. The five were originally part of a group of seven, however one man was killed at the time of the incident, and one other was acquited on Wednesday. He gets to return home, the other five continue their stay in French prisons.

During the week and a half trial (held in a Paris juvenile court as one of the defendents was under 18 when arrested) a psychiatrist gave evidence about the stress and difficulties the men were having being locked-up so far away from their homeland. Most of the men had had no contact with their families since their arrest. One man had set fire to his cell, the psychiatrist said that the best treatment would be for him to be back with his family in his cultural milieu.

This was the first modern piracy trial in France, however it will not be the last. There are currently 15 other Somali men and teenagers awaiting trial in three seperate piracy cases.

It is not the first piracy trial in Europe either.

In the Netherlands there has already been two trials. Five men, arrested in 2009 were sentenced in June 2010 to five years imprisonment. Five others, arrested in November 2010 were sentenced in August 2011 to terms ranging from four to seven years. 14 other men are currently on trial in two seperate court cases.

In Belgium one man has been on trial since May 2010. He was arrested in November 2009 on the basis of DNA evidence.

There have been ten men on trial in Germany since November 2010, they were arrested in April 2010. Their case is also been held in a juvenile court as three of the defendents were teenagers when arrested, one was younger than 14.

In Spain two men were arrested in October 2009 and sentenced to 439 years each in May 2011.

South Korea tries Somali men

In South Korea five Somali men were sentenced in May 2011 for their alleged part in hijacking a South Korean ship in January 2011. Four men were sentenced to between 12 and 15 years imprisonment and one man was given life. The five were originally part of a group of 13, but eight men were killed at the time of the arrest.

The man sentenced to life appealed his sentence, the sentence was upheld but now all five are appealing to the Supreme Court.

'Pirates' sentenced in the USA

The United States sentenced Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, a 15-year old, to nearly 34 years in prison in May 2011. He was arrested in May 2009, the sole survivor from a group of four alleged pirates, the others were killed by US navy sharp-shooters. All of them were under 20 years of age. Despite evidence from Somalia that Abdiwali was a juvenile, the US tried him as an adult.

Currently facing court is a man alleged to be a negotiator in two hijacking incidences. One incident involves a German yacht hijacked in May 2010. The other involves an American yacht with a crew of four, all four crew were killed and two alleged pirates also died.

A total of 14 men are currently facing charges in the US over the hijacking of this yacht. Six pleaded guilty to hijacking early and of these four have received life in prison and one other given a sentence of two concurrent life sentences. Five others later pleased guilty and are currently waiting to be sentenced to mandatory life, while three others are facing the death penalty if convicted. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New German / Dutch Task-force created

On 17 November Germany and the Netherlands joined forces to create a task-force to track down people who assist Somali piracy. 

Heading the task-force are both the Dutch and German Public Prosecutor’s Offices and also involved are the British National Criminal Investigation Service, (a group focussing on immigration, organised and financial crime), the FBI office in Berlin, and Eurojust and Europol (Europol is the EU's official criminal intelligence agency and Eurojust is its prosecution unit).
Europol, Eurojust and Interpol have been working together on a counter-piracy project since early 2010; this latest joint Dutch-German project focuses on people assisting so-called pirates.

Piracy or a resource swap?

"It's almost like a resource swap. Somalis collect up to $100 million a year from pirate ransoms off their coasts. And the Europeans and Asians poach around $300 million a year in fish from Somalia waters."  Peter Lehr, St. Andrew's University.
In the 1980s the Somali fishing industry was steadily expanding, then in 1991 the civil war began and what was described by the UN as a free-for-all took place in the waters off Somalia.

Foreign fishing vessels began to turn the “Somali seabed into a wasteland” and most of the world ignored what was happening.1

One response by some Somali communities was the creation of local coast-guards to police their waters. At this time, in the early 1990s, it was common to talk of the vigilante Somali coast-guards fighting against the international pirate fleet. And when an illegal ship was caught in Somali waters, it was fined. The ship was held until the penalty was paid.

Read more:

Coalition of the Willing

"It is particularly ironic that many of the nations that are presently contributing warships to the anti-piracy flotillas patrolling, or set to patrol, the waters off the Horn of Africa, are themselves directly linked to the foreign fishing vessels that are busily plundering Somalia's offshore resources," Clive Schofield, University of Wollongong, and author of Plundered Waters: Somalia's Maritime Resource Insecurity 2009.
Fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia is now big business, private security companies and international military forces are all working in the Horn of Africa to combat piracy – that is the Somali 'pirates'. They do not focus on the international shipping fleets poaching the Somalian fish or the international ships that are dumping toxic waste; they focus on the local Somalian people.

Since 2008 more than 30 countries have sent navies to the Gulf of Aden. Most of the G20 countries are active in the area. A large number of international organisations are also suddenly involved in the fight; before piracy off the coast of Somalia became popular, only the IMO and Interpol had policy relating to piracy. Now even the World Bank does. Regional and state organisations such as the EU, NATO, the Arab League and the African Union also have policy or play active roles in the area.

An unprecedented number of Resolutions has been passed by The United Nations Security Council authorising military operations in the area, the most recent in November 2011.
Read more:

A Rainforest of Fish

"It's been like a long gold rush for Thai, European, Yemeni and Korean boats. We have some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. Scientists say it is like a rain forest of fish. But our fishermen can't compete with the foreigners in big ships who come to steal from our waters." Abdulwali Abdulrahman Gayre, vice minister of ports and fisheries for Puntland.
The Somalian coastline, the longest in Africa – over 2,000 miles / 3,330 km long, is known as one of the richest sea resources in the world. Yet, instead of stopping those who are dumping toxic waste there, or stopping over-fishing and illegal trawling, the UN and the international 'community of nations' are pouring huge money and resources into counter-piracy and counter-terrorism actions. 
The UN have passed several resolutions allowing the use of force against Somali 'pirates', both at sea and on land: 
Read more:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Current Military Forces Present

Military forces in the Horn of Africa on 25 November 2011:
Australia, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the UK and the USA.

These are ships from Operation Atalanta, Operation Ocean Shield, CTF 151, and the independent navies.