Saturday, March 27, 2010

International Bodies vs Armed Security on Ships

The recent announcements that attempt to blame armed security on board vessels for the death of the pirate is somewhat akin to the travesty that sees a homeowner shoot and kill somebody attempting to kidnap his or her family at gunpoint and then ending up as the accused in court. Some salient facts that need to brought back into focus.

First, International bodies need to get back into line with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Under Article 3 of that core UN document, every individual has the right to “life, liberty and security of person.” If we are to accept the pirate sympathizer’s contention that they are simply detaining those who are a member of society that has illegally fished or dumped chemicals, then they are in violation of Article 9 that states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” Finally, there is a natural right to self defence.

Second, there needs to be some kind of international action to ensure that the root causes of this problem are addressed—ranging from the failed state through to ensuring that over-fishing and illegal dumping do not continue in the region. At the same time, there needs to be an economic answer in Somalia so that the only way to get rich does not appear to suddenly become involved in this kind of organized criminality.

Third, consider that the pirates are "signaling" vessels with automatic weapons’ fire and rocket propelled grenades (A reasonable person may use a radio to signal). If this situation were encountered at any other piece of infrastructure, there would be an armed force protecting that particular point—and not necessarily the military. If a bank were attacked, we would expect the security to respond in kind. If a nuclear power plant were attacked in this way, security is there to ensure that the attack is short lived and that the facility is protected. Yet, for some reason, we are bombarded with comments that state that armed security on board vessels is somehow the root of all ills in this circumstance.

Let us be blunt. The root of this ill lies in a failed state in Somalia and a group of criminals that have become organized and found a way to prey upon something that they feel will return them wealth.

Where we need to be careful is in how that armed security is deployed and used. There is no room for cowboys or trigger happy fools that want to make a name for themselves by hunting pirates in this business. But to tell ships that they cannot use certain elements of self defence because it doesn’t fit with the credo of a certain mindset, begs the question as to when those people making that declaration are  going  out to sail off of the coast of Somalia, or are going to have to reassure the families of the taken seafarers that their loved ones are cared for and being protected.

And this doesn’t even begin to address the imbalance that comes with one pirate death as compared to the deaths and injuries that the pirates have caused, either during attacks or during the periods of captivity…

The sad reality is that this situation is going to escalate. The pirates will want to make their money and somebody will have to stop them from taking the ships.  This means that the attacks will take a harsher tone or become more aggressive…the only question really remains is to the seafarers themselves and is whether or not they want to be victims and pawns in this whole situation. That is not a question that the policy thinkers sitting around a table have the right to answer, in my humble opinion.

This has been a guest post by;
Allan McDougall

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