Monday, December 3, 2012

Italian Court-case Ends

On 30th November an Italian court sentenced the nine Somali men on trial in Rome to between 16 and 19 years in prison for attempted kidnapping for extortion and illegal possession of firearms. But the charges of terrorism were not held. The prosecution were unable to prove any links with terrorism.

In 2011 the men had allegedly attempted to hijack an Italian-flagged cargo ship. The four teenagers arrested at the same time were tried separately as juveniles and sentenced in June to eight years in prison each.

Another trial in Italy is set to begin this week. This one is against eleven men arrested in January this year - these men were not charged with terrorism.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Some European Trials

The trial of the seven Somali men and three teenagers in Hamburg, Germany, finally come to end on Friday 19th October. They were all found guilty of 'attack on maritime traffic' and 'abduction for the purpose of blackmail' and sentenced to prison. The teenagers received sentences of two years and the adults sentences from six to seven years. 

As the time already spent in custody in Germany is taken into account for sentencing, the three teenagers do not have to return to prison (the three were released on bail in April).  Currently Germany does not deport people to Somalia, so the young men are able to stay in Hamburg.

The Hamburg trial was one of the longest in post-war Germany history - 104 days, and supposedly the first 'pirate' trial in over 400 years. It was reported on in great detail by the 'Reclaim the Seas' blog, a blog attempting to 'help make the voices of the accused heard'.

Many people argued the trial was an expensive piece of state propaganda playing with peoples' lives to justify Atalanta and Germany's role in it.

In the first days of the trial, defense lawyers issued a statement saying that "the real cause of piracy in the region was political unrest in Somalia and over-fishing of its waters by Western nations." (Spiegel Online) A further Speigel article described the case as an 'expensive farce'.

Meanwhile, in a much quicker trial lasting little more than a month - on 12th October, nine Somali men on trial in the Netherlands were convicted and sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment on charges of piracy. They were facing the possibility of life imprisonment but were found not guilty of attempted murder.

The nine men were were part of a group of 16 arrested on board an Iranian ship by Dutch marines in April 2011. Two other members of the group were killed when the Dutch boarded the ship.

The trial in Italy of nine men continues, but media reports are that it may be over before the end of the year. As reported earlier on this blog, the nine are facing not only piracy-related charges but also terrorism. The prosecution are trying to argue that the ransom money was intended for Al-Shabaab.

The four teenagers arrested at the same time as the nine men, were tried separately in a Rome juvenile court and in June were found guilty of attempted hi-jacking but not of terrorism. They were each sentenced to eight years in prison.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fishermen of Somalia

An article published this week in numerous international media, including the Huffington Post, states that piracy around the Horn of Africa is in decline. Statistics are quoted to show that piracy attacks in that region are falling, however no statistics are quoted about the forms of piracy occurring in the area - the IUUs and toxic waste dumping.

Another article by the creator of Somali Report, Robert Young Pelton, also points out that piracy is decreasing and also cites the fact that only 1% of commercial ships that travel around the Horn of Africa are attacked.

But one article published this week, Somalia's fishermen struggle to make a living from pirate-infested seas, does not appear to be getting the same amount of coverage as the above two. This article interviews the chairperson of the Banadir fishermen's union, who talks about the difficulties facing Mogadishu's fishermen - both on land and at sea. He says that although Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, they are the 'poorest fishermen in Africa'.

One fisherman in the article states, "There's no dignity in being a fisherman any more, At sea, armed men in speedboats search you because they say you look like a pirate and when you come back soldiers can shoot you if you return outside curfew hours." (The fisherman was referring to being shot at by African Union troops as he returns to port after 5pm)

There are several reasons that the fishermen of Somalia are struggling, but there can be no denying that the 'Coalition of the Willing' is a threat. Various media have reported on fishermen being killed and injured both at sea and on land, including Somali Report and Bloomberg. But not many of these cases are investigated, however in India two Italian marines have been charged with the murder of two Indian fishermen - killed on the assumption that they were pirates.

The seas around the Horn of Africa are dangerous - there are numerous navies, private security, floating armouries and mercenaries all supposedly patrolling this area to keep the international shipping lanes open. But there is neither little done to protect the fishermen and the environment from both IUUs and the dumping of toxic waste and nor is there adequate media coverage and investigation of what is happening in the waters around the Horn of Africa,

The IUUs and dumping of toxic waste needs to be stopped.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Letters to Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse

There has been a plea for letters to be sent to 15 year-old Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse imprisoned in the US. (Address below)

In May 2011, the teenager was tried as an an adult for offences related to piracy and sentenced to 33 years and nine months in prison. At the time, 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.

Write to Muse, the teenager jailed in the US:
Abdulwali Abukhadir Muse 70636-054
 FCI Terre Haute
 Federal Correctional Institution 
 PO Box 33
 Terre Haute, IN 47808

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Trials in Europe

In the first week of September nine men went on trial in the Netherlands, charged with piracy and attempted murder.They were the remainder of a group of 16 arrested in April 2011 after a gunfire battled with Dutch marines based on the warship Tromp. The Somali were supposedly on board an Iranian fishing vessel. Two Somali men were killed in the gun battle and buried at sea by the crew of the Tromp, seven released and the remaining nine were taken to the Netherlands.

The trial is expected to last less than a month, and if convicted the men face life imprisonment.

This is not the first courtcase in the Netherlands and it will not be the last.

The Netherlands has the dubious honour of being the first European country to try people for 'Somali' piracy - that was the trial of five men arrested in 2009, in June 2010 they were sentenced to five years imprisonment each. The next trial was in August 2011 of five men arrested in November 2010, they received sentences of between four and seven years. One of the people said he was only 13 years old; 'experts' put his age at between 14 and 15 years.

Meanwhile, the Dutch navy arrested another group of alleged Somali pirates last month in the Somalian coastal waters and the group are now in the process of being transported to Rotterdam for trial. (Another group, arrested in July by the Dutch navy, were taken to Oman for trial).

The trial in Italy of nine men is also continuing. The nine are facing not only piracy-related charges but also terrorism. The prosecution are trying to argue that the ransom money was intended for Al-Shabaab.

The four teenagers arrested at the same time as the nine men, were tried separately in a Rome juvenile court. The judge did not accept the charge of terrorism against the youth, but they were found guilty of attempted hi-jacking and were each sentenced to eight years in prison.

In Belgium, a man arrested on DNA evidence was sentenced in January this year to ten years imprisonment.

And in Germany, after a trial lasting nearly a hundred days of actual court appearances, the trial of ten people in Hamburg is nearing an end.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Future of Atalanta and Booming Private Security

The British House of Lords has commended Atalanta for attacking alleged pirate land bases and recommended that Atalanta does not end in 2014, but should again be extended for at least another four years. They also recommended the number of ships Britain contributes to Atalanta should increase; however, due to financial constraints Britain no longer has any frigates patrolling around the Horn of Africa.

The House of Lords have also revised shipping practise and UK-flagged ships are now allowed to use armed guards, a policy that is becoming more common in many different countries. The governments of Belgium and Italy have both authorised the use of armed guards and private maritime security for ships bearing their flag.

Dutch and Swiss shipping companies have admitted to using private armed security on board ships as they sail around the Horn of Africa. Switzerland is not part of Atalanta.

All in all, the use of private security in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean is sky-rocketing. More than a quarter of ships travelling through the area have stated that they have private security on board, but the number will actually be greater than that. As pointed out by Australian James Brown in a recent report and lecture, shipping companies flying the flag of a country that does not allow armed guards on ship, would not tell the truth.

Brown also talks about the many 'private navies' that now work in the area and also the practise of states renting out their navies to shipping companies.

Therefore, along with Operation Atalanta, CTF 151, Operation Ocean Shield and the independent navies, there are now more than 140 companies and 18 floating armouries operating in waters near the Gulf of Aden.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Negotiators in Court

As a deterrance to other 'pirate negotiators', in early August Mohammad Saaili Shibin was sentenced in a US court to multiple sentences of life imprisonment. He was sentenced to "10 concurrent life sentences...two consecutive life sentences...10 years consecutive...and two 20-year sentences... and is also required to pay restitution in the amount of approximately $5,408,000US." Mohammad Saaili Shibin was one of the first 'pirates' renditioned from Somalia to the USA, and was convicted in April this year for supposedly acting as a negotiator for both the hijacking of an American yacht in February 2011 and a German merchant ship in 2010. He allegedly admitted to some of the charges after being captured in Somalia and whilst being taken to the US on a flight that took three days. The US thanked Germany for its help in the prosecution.

In contrast, in April 2011 Ali Mohamed Ali, another alleged 'pirate negptiator', was arrested whilst travelling in the USA and was charged with piracy. His trial is still on-going, but already the judge has found that universal jurisdiction does not apply as Ali was arrested on land. He was not arrested at high sea.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Current Military Forces Present

Military forces present in the Horn of Africa on 14 July 2012:
Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and the USA.

These are ships from Operation Atalanta, Operation Ocean Shield, CTF 151 and the independent navies. Note: Greece and the UK no longer participate due to austerity measures.)

Read more about the campaigns.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dubai Conference June 2012

In the last week of June, the second international counter-piracy conference to be held in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) occurred.

 The conference was attended by more than 400 people representing 41 countries, executives from 73 maritime companies and organisations, and various UN and IMO (International Maritime Organisation) personnel. Present at the conference were both President Shaikh Sharif Shaikh Ahmad of the TFG and President Ahmad Mohammad Silyano of Somaliland.

The Conference's aim was to further advance public-private coordination in the fight against piracy. During the conference, the UAE pledged 1 million U.S. dollars to the Somali maritime security and coastguard. Earlier in the month the UAE had withdrawn their funding of the Puntland Maritime Police Force. (This funding had only been announced in February this year. Read the story here)

The UAE and France also announced that with the help of France, the UAE will host training of Somali judges to support and enable local, Somalia-based prosecutions of people charged with piracy. The first group of 31 Somali judges will travel to the UAE in October for training in holding piracy trials.

The UAE are the current chair of the Contact Group on Piracy.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Netherlands Increases Role in OceanShield

On 2nd July, just weeks after the Netherlands increased its contribution to the NATO anti-piracy fleet, Operation Oceanshield, it has arrested more alleged pirates - and this time handed them over to Oman for prosecution. The seven people were arrested on 29th June when the Dutch navy freed a hi-jacked Omani-flagged dhow.

After the incident, the Dutch commander of Oceanshield, Commodore Ben Bekkering, is reported as saying, "...the joy on the faces of the freed crew in an equally beautiful picture as container ships arriving in Rotterdam." (Bekkering has a Facebook and Twitter account he updates regularly.)
In 2010, Bekkering was captain of one of the first reported incidents of overt patrolling of coastal villages in Somalia. It is alleged that using both landing craft and the warship, Bekkering patrolled close enough into the shore to be able to observe  the coast and villages, and to stop boats and ships leaving the habours.

Netherlands has only within the last two weeks increased significantly its involvement in Operation Oceanshield. In early June, the Dutch parliament voted to  spend US$16.5 million, this money is to provide: extra personnel, two Cougar helicopters, a drone and an additional submarine. In the same week, the parliament turned down a request from merchant ship owners to use private security for protection.

As to Atalanta,  the Dutch parliament declared it 'controversial' due to the mandate that allows Atalanta forces to attack coastal 'pirate' camps from the sea or land. Operation Oceanshield still does not have this mandate.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Highlights Toxic-Waste Dumping

A recently published book about organised crime once more highlights the dumping of toxic waste off the coast of Somalia.

'Crime, Trafficking and Networks', published in May this year, reports on the links between several organised crime groups in southern Italy and some Somali warlords. Interestingly, the attention-grabbing title and opening sentence of the article about the book, focus on possible links between the Mafia and Somali pirates. But what follows are claims by the Paris-based criminologist, Michel Koutouzis, that it is some Somali warlords who the Mafia supply "... with black market small arms from the Western Balkans in return for permission to dump waste."

Koutouzis then goes onto point out that, "Tonnes of waste are discharged every year off the coasts of Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea under the noses of countless warships which control sea freight in the Read Sea and the Gulf of Aden."

He says that the practise has been going on for years, and refers to 'After the Tsunami', the UN Environment Taskforce report of 2005 that spoke of the toxic waste washed ashore with the 2004 tsunami.

According to the article, both the EU's special envoy for the Horn of Africa, a former Greek diplomat, and the commander of Atalanta, a British rear-Admiral, were interviewed about the information in the book. The special envoy said that the matter was being 'checked'. However, the rear-admiral said there was " hard evidence of the Italian link,.."

Koutouzis' response was that, "Of course they know about it. But they don't want to do anything."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

In France: Four Guilty, Two Acquitted

The trial of the six Somali men arrested on land in 2008 by French paratroopers has ended with four found guilty and two acquitted. The men found guilty have been sentenced to between four and ten years. The person who received ten years had admitted during interrogation to being a pirate.

The group were arrested after paratroopers used a helicopter to stop a taxi they were travelling in, and had been held in custody since then. The two youngest were acquitted.

French prosecution are appealing the sentences, they say that they are too lenient.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

USA Re-defines Piracy

The US Court of Appeal has held that unsuccessful attacks on boats is piracy.

On May 23rd the US Court of Appeal upheld sentences of life + 80 years imprisonment for five Somali men convicted in November 2010 of piracy against a US navy frigate; the court also sent another case back to a lower court to be retried.

It is alleged that the five men sentenced to life plus 80 years had, in April 2010, fired at the USS Nicholas, a warship that had been disguised as a merchant ship. The Somali men had been captured and transported to the US where they had been tried for piracy, found guilty and sentenced. At the same time, there had been another court case with very similar circumstances and even in the same month: in April 2010 a group of Somali men had approached but not boarded the USS Ashland. The men were captured and taken to the US for trial. One man plead guilty and was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment, the others had piracy charges against them dismissed as the men had not taken control of or robbed the ship. The US Court of Appeal sent that case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

Thus it is now clear in US law that piracy does not have to actually involve boarding or robbing a vessel, piracy can be a threat of an attack.

In the meantime, prosecution continue to say that they want the death penalty for the remaining three Somali men still awaiting trial for the hi-jacking of the US yacht Quest in February 2011. During that incidence, the four Americans on board the boat were killed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Life in Abu Dhabi

Ten Somali people accused of piracy were sentenced to 25 years each on Tuesday 22 May for the hi-jacking of a UAE ship on 1st April last year.

The ship was travelling from Australia to Jelel Ali with a load of aluminium when it was hi-jacked and held for one day before a US warship, one of the CTF151 ships boarded the ship and arrested the Somali people on board.

The court ruled that the men would all be deported to Somalia after they had served their sentence.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Trials in Europe

Two new trials recently started up in Europe.

A trial began in Paris on 22 May six men arrested in in Somalia in 2008 over the hijacking of the French ship, Le Ponant. If convicted, the men could be sentenced to life.

The men were arrested four years ago, a week after the alleged hi-jacking, by French paratroopers. Using a helicopter, the paratroopers stopped the taxi the alleged pirates were travelling in. The men have been in French custody since.

Only one of the people in the taxi allegedly admitted to being a pirate - the others have all denied the claim.

There are currently 22 Somali people arrested in connection with piracy, in French prisons.

The other trial beginning in Europe was another Spanish one. Six men appeared in court on 24 May charged with kidnapping after allegedly trying to attack the Atalanta Flagship, Patina, in January this year. (More about this incident can be read here.)

If convicted, the men will face sentences of between 893 to 1,122 years in prison.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mauritius Agrees to Try Somali 'Pirates'

On Friday 18th May, Mauritius announced that as of June it would officially begin to try people arrested by other countries for piracy around the Horn of Africa. This makes four countries in the area willing to prosecute piracy - Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, and now Mauritius.

A final contract between the EU and Tanzania is still awaiting signing before Tanzania can proceed.

And although the Kenyan Court of Appeal is still waiting to deliver its decision about whether Kenya actually has the legal right to try pirates arrested outside of Kenyan waters; Kenya is still accepting alleged pirates to prosecute. Read about that landmark courtcase here.

Many of the countries doing the arresting and capturing, those involved in the 'Coalition of the Willing' are actually unwilling to prosecute the people they themselves capture. The various governments often cite the risks that the people will apply for asylum after any trial.

Maybe therefore they should consider arresting the IUUs and boats dumping toxic waste.

Most of those ship owners and firms that produce the waste are people from the countries that make up Atalanta, Ocean Shield, CTF 151 and IONS and all the other independent navies patrolling in the waters off Somalia. Then there would be no worry about people seeking asylum.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Official Attack On-Land by Atalanta

Within the last few days, the EU finally agreed to attacking alleged Somali pirates on land and on 15th May, were the first air attacks since the ambit of Atalanta was widened. It has been reported that speed boats, step ladders, fishing nets and mobile phones were destroyed.

In a press statement, the Mission Head of Atalanta said that air attacks were launched to destroy pirates’ supplies on land. He stated that, "Whilst assessment is on-going, surveillance of the area during the action indicates that no Somalis were injured ashore as a result of EU action."

In March EU Ministers extended Operation Atalanta until December 2014 and spoke about wanting to extend Atalanta's "area of operations to include Somali coastal territory as well as its territorial and internal waters".

Initially Austria, Spain and Germany described this as 'mission creep', but last week all countries finally agreed to what they said is a 'temporary mandate'. A special mandate had to be passed through the German parliament for this to happen.

The 'EUNAVFOR – Operation Atalanta: Disruption of pirates’ logistics in Somalia' can be read here.

The result was today's first official land-based attack.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Seychelles Accepts More Alleged Pirates from Denmark

On Wednesday 11th April the Danish Navy warship Absalon arrested sixteen Somali men after the Absalon raided an alleged pirate mother ship. Of the sixteen men, four were handed over to the Seychelles on 1st May to be prosecuted; the other twelve continue to remain on board the Danish warship whilst Denmark endeavours to find another country willing to prosecute them.

It is the second time that the Seychelles has accepted alleged pirates from Denmark for prosecution. Over the last few years 280 alleged pirates have been captured by Danish warships and 37 have been prosecuted, but none have yet been brought to trial in Denmark.

It is also the second time in just over a month that the Absalon warship has been involved in pirate rescue operations. However, in an operation in February two of the alleged hostages were killed.

Convicted in the USA

One of the first ever alleged 'pirates' renditioned from Somalia to the USA, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, was found guilty on 27th April of charges of piracy, hostage taking, kidnapping and conspiracy. The prosecution said that he worked as a hostage negotiator for both the hijacking of an American yacht in February 2011 and a German merchant ship in 2010, and as a result earned between $30,000 and 50,000US for negotiating the ransom payments.

He faces a mandatory life sentence of life in a U.S. prison. Mohammad Saaili Shibin's lawyer has said that the conviction will be appealed. He says that the case should have been heard in Somalia rather than his client been kidnapped and taken to the USA.

In connection with the hi-jacking of the American yacht, there have already been other people convicted: eleven Somali men have been sentenced to life imprisonment and it was announced on 1st May that three more men who are defending the charges will face the death penalty if convicted.

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

The hijacking of the yacht in February last year resulted in the death of the couple who owned the boat, two guests on the boat, and four of the alleged pirates. After the incident, the US apparently reviewed their policy in relation to piracy around the Gulf of Aden.

Monday, April 16, 2012

IONS Conference Ends

Friday 13th was the last day of  the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) Conference in South Africa. And the meeting ended with the confirmation that the members will, under the mandate of the UN, 'neutralise the camps and hideouts of the pirates in Somalia'.

IONS, composed of 35 countries, including Australia, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, the UAE, and Yemen, was also attended by many countries as observers. It was a large conference with the Chiefs of Navies from at least 50 countries present.

IONS is following the path of the EU, who towards the end of last year announced that they wanted to allow excursions on Somali land to hunt pirates. It was reported as if it was a completely new initiative, however what it is doing is legallising current practise.

In March 2012 the EU confirmed that Atalanta could now hunt pirates on the land, however for Germany to become involved in on-shore attacks a new mandate has to be passed in the German parliament.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Controlling the Resources

The Australian mining company, Jacka Resouces has just announced that it will be joining three other international companies: Ophir Energy, Asante Oil and Prime Resources, in setting up camp in Somalia. This announcement comes only a month after the much touted London Conference on Somalia.

The February London Conference was seen by some people as nothing more than another attempt to further carve up Somali resources. Jacka's announcement confirms it.

At the Conference there was little or nothing done to protect the Somalian coastline from either the international IUUs fishing boats or other vessels dumping toxic waste in the region. The focus of the Conference was on making Somalia and the waters around the Horn of Africa safer for international trade. It also focused on strengthening the presence of foreign forces in Somalia itself, building more prisons in Somalia to hold convicted 'pirates' and opening Somalia up to more trade.

Countries represented at the Conference agreed that more money and resources will be poured into expanding the forces already present in the Gulf region; the UN has already agreed that the role of AMISOM (the African Union Mission in Somalia) is to be expanded.

The Conference concluded with the call for 'all countries to coordinate activities against terrorism and piracy and to bring stability to Somalia'. Words that many see as an excuse to control the resources not only off the coast of Somalia, but also the purported reserves of natural gas, iron ore, tin, uranium, copper and other metals present in Somalia.

The Australian company Jacka Resources could be one of the first foreign companies to strike it rich. It would be interesting to see if Jacka is connected with Orica Limited, a publicly-listed Australian company that has been linked with the dumping of toxic waste off the coast of Somalia.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Case Opens in Italy

Nine Somali men appeared in a Roman court on 23rd March. They have been charged with piracy and the State is also alleging that the act of piracy was a fund-raising exercise for Al-Shabaab. This will be one of the first cases where the prosecution will try and prove links between so-called terrorist organisations and piracy. Their next court appearance will be on 15th May 2012.

The nine men were part of a group of fifteen arrested in October 2011 by British and US forces as part of a joint  NATO Ocean Shield operation. They are alleged to have hi-jacked the Italian vessel Montecristo. All fifteen people arrested were handed over to Italian custody and flown to Rome; after a police investigation two of the men were repatriated to Pakistan. Nine adults appeared in court on 23rd March and the remaining four people are juveniles and will be prosecuted in a juvenile court, their case begins on 2nd April.

Current Military Forces Present

Military forces present in the Horn of Africa on 28 March 2012:
China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, 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.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Held in Kenya

On the 18th and 19th February four Somali men arrested by Danish forces were flown to Mombasa, Kenya. They were actually supposedly arrested on 7th January this year. At least two of them were first flown to the Seychelles, before all four of there were flown to Kenya. It is not known whether the other two were held at sea before being sent to Kenya, or were also sent via another country.

Last year Denmark took 24 people arrested on piracy charges to Kenya.

Kenya now holds over 200 people arrested as pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

This is despite what is happening in the courts in Kenya. In January 2011, the Kenya's High Court ruled that “...Local Courts can only deal with offences or criminal incidents that take place within the territorial jurisdiction of Kenya.” The result was that Kenya did not have the jurisdiction to prosecute 'Piracy on the High Seas' (that is, acts of piracy which occur outside a State's territorial seas). This decision arose out of a 2009 court case reported here, a case which also ended with an order that the defendants in the trial were to be repatriated back to their homelands. The case is still under appeal as the prosecution demand the right to try the men in Kenya.

The background to the case was the arrest in March 2009 of nine Somali and Sudan suspected pirates by the German Navy. The men were arrested allegedly trying to hijack a German cargo ship (the MV Courier), crewed by mainly Filipino people and sailing under the flags of Antigua and Barbuda. At  the time Angela Merkel had argued that it was not in Germany's interests to bring alleged pirates to trial in Germany. (This changed when a group of ten men and teenagers were arrested by the Dutch Navy, read about the court case on 'Reclaim the Seas' blog.)

Another interesting fact about the 2009 German arrest of the men and subsequent refusal to prosecute them in Germany, is that it was from this incident that the 2009 Moratorium of Agreement was signed between Kenya and the EU; an agreement that allowed arrested pirates to be handed over to Kenya for prosecution. Now the agreement is under threat by a court-case arising from that same incident.

A further exercise in relation to the same case, was the suing of the German government by some of the arrested men. They alleged that Germany must have known of the unsatisfactory prison conditions in Kenya and therefore they should not have been handed over to the jurisdiction of Kenya.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dead fish

In mid-January three tonnes of dead fish were found washed ashore near Bosaso. Bosaso, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden, is one of the main ports in Somailia.

The Minister of Fisheries in Puntland has said that the dead fish are a result of toxic waste dumping in the Gulf and around the Horn of Africa.

Despite repeated calls from Somalia, environmental agencies and many people around the world for countries to halt this practice, toxic waste dumping around the Horn of Africa is ignored and allowed to continue. The UN gives mandates to countries to patrol the waters to stop piracy, but nothing is done to stop the dumping.

More can be read about the dumping of toxic waste in Somalia's waters on the following pages: 'A Rainforest of Fish' and 'Piracy or a Resource Swap?'.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


An American judge has refused to dismiss all charges against Mohammad Saaili Shibin, one of the first ever people renditioned from Somalia to the USA on piracy charges. And the judge has also said that statements made by the man whilst been flown from Somalia to the USA can be used as evidence.

Mohammad Saaili Shibin's defence lawyer demanded that all charges against be dropped for several reasons, including the fact that the arrest and rendition to the USA was illegal; he was basically kidnapped from Somalia.

It is alleged that Mohammad Saaili Shibin searched the internet using his cellphone to try and ascertain how much of a ransom could be demanded for an American yacht hi-jacked in early 2011. Whilst in custody and been flown to the US (three days after he was first arrested and interrogated) he is alleged to have confessed to being the negotiator when the German ship,  Marida Marguerite, was hi-jacked in 2010. As a result he now faces two charges, one in relation to the US yacht and the other to the German merchant ship.

Germany was thanked by the USA for its role in bringing the charges against the man.

The trial is set down to begin on the 17th April.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sitting in Prison

Six Somali men arrested off the coast of Somalia on January 12th are now sitting in prison in Spain after allegedly attacking the Atalanta Flagship, Patina. (Spain is currently leading Atalanta, having replaced Germany in December 2011).  The men say they are fishermen and that one of their group was killed by the Spanish military.

The charges they face include attempted piracy and disobeying a warship. No trial date has yet been set.

Meanwhile in Hamburg, Germany, the prosecution has rested its case and called for sentences ranging from seven to eleven years for the adult men on trial and  between four and five and a half years for the under-age defendants. The court case is set to continue until the end of March.

And in Belgium, the Brussels Court of Appeal upheld the sentence of ten years given in July last year against the one person on trial there. He had been arrested in November 2009 on the basis of DNA evidence held in the Interpol collection. The collection of DNA samples of suspected Somali "pirates" was officially established in mid-2010 after an anti-pirate conference in South Korea.

Many northern Hemisphere and western countries oppose the collection of DNA samples from their own  population, but allow their own navies and military to build databases of Somali people in Africa and their border agencies to build databases of refugees and people seeking asylum.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A 1 in 300 risk

There's been an interesting argument going on in the English courts over the last few months. It's a debate that focuses on the risk of a ship being attacked by pirates whilst going around the Horn of Africa. And the risk, both shipping companies and the courts agree, is actually only 1 voyage out of every 300 transits a ship does.

That is, one transit out of every 300 is at risk.

And allegedly because of this risk, the EU has continued Operation Atalanta to the end of 2012 and is considering expanding its powers so that Atalanta forces can now legally go on Somali land. The USA has just announced that it is expanding its presence in the Gulf of Aden with a floating SEAL base.

Somali piracy is seen as a huge threat and money continues to be poured into stopping the 'pirates' but little is done to stop the IUU fishing boats or the dumping of toxic wastes. It continues.

The details of the actual court case have received minimal coverage in the mainstream press, however it is covered in legal websites and journals. The case involved a Panama flag-flying ship, Triton Lark. The ship was charted by a Hong Kong company, Pacific Basin, to carry a load of Potash from Hamburg to China via the Suez Canal from its disponent owner - the Norwegian firm 'Bulkhandling Handymax' (The real ship owner is Triton Navigation B.V., an Amsterdam company part of the Japanese multi-national Sumitomo Group).

Because of the risk of piracy, the Norwegian firm refused to sail through the Suez Canal and therefore costs of the voyage increased. Pacific Basin then sued for those costs to be covered; both sides agreed that the actual risk is only one in 300 transits. The matter has been referred back to the arbitrators.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lethal Force and Armed Guards

The use of armed guards on board ships transiting the Gulf of Aden is becoming increasingly commonplace. This despite the fact that only two years ago the IMO was against it and in 2010 the IFSMA (International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations) said, "that under no circumstances should the crew on board merchant ships be armed or any armed guards be taken on board." Now the IMO is asking governments to endorse the practise; some countries already have, including Britain, Denmark, Spain and Norway. Ships bearing the flag of other countries continue to use private armed guards regardless of whether it's legal or not and other ship owners are changing the country where they have registered the ship. For example, several German companies have already changed flag so they can carry armed guards legally.

And the British Parliament is currently drawing up guidelines on the use of 'lethal force' or 'shoot to kill policies' on ships carrying the British flag. That is, when will it be deemed legal to kill a person suspected of piracy.

But people suspected of piracy are dying now - they are killed by some of the 'official' campaigns operating around the Horn, killed by IUUs and other illegal fishing boats, or just disappearing.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Attack on land - nothing new!

On 20th December the EU instructed the commander of Atalanta to draw up new plans for revised rules of engagement - plans to attack 'pirate' basis on the land. It became news nine days later after it was leaked in the German media. For Germany to become involved in on-shore attacks a new mandate has to be passed in the German parliament.

A spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry said that the changes would mean "limited destruction of piracy logistics on the beach" but "no deployment on land." The statements raise interesting questions - when is a beach not land? And how far inland does a beach extend?

Actually members of Atalanta have actually already been deployed on land. In one known incident video coverage shows French troops attacking people on land after  the French boat Le Ponant was hi-jacked in 2008. Six people were arrested and three people were killed during the 'operation'.