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.