Of Compassion—and Common Sense
Recent media reports HERE that India is intended to charge 14 suspected Somali pirates and their three hostages that drifted to within kilometres of India’s coast. While one can certainly see the pirates facing charges, the argument that the Somali’s will only be charged with trespassing is somewhat mind boggling. To charge the three Yemeni, indicated as being “hostages”, for entering into India’s territory without the appropriate travel documents should also raise a few eyebrows.
India has taken a reasonably tough stance on its border controls since the Mumbai attacks. The fact that this vessel was reported to have been found near the same route suspected to have been used for those attacks probably does not help the situation. It may even be necessary to show a strong hand against both the Somalis and Yemeni on board so that there is no appearance of vulnerabilities in the overall system.
The problem here is that there are indications that India’s stance on its border controls may be moving beyond the pale of decency and common sense. There have been reports, corroborated through third sources, that Indian officials were directly involved in failing to allow at least one person from being able to seek medical attention when that individual was left stranded on board a vessel (the company having gone into receivership and leaving a number of its crew and personnel stranded).
Combined with those, and other, past reports, there are adequate indications that India`s policies in this respect have moved outside of what might be called reasonable conduct. While, of course, the state certainly has its right to manage its own sovereign affairs as it sees fit, it may be prudent for some to be reminded that (1) they operate within a community of nations and (2) that strength and compassion are a far more powerful mix than simply exercising strength without judgement.
Let us hope that common sense prevails...that the pirates are held pending more serious charges and that the Yemeni persons held hostage are recognized for being under duress and hardly able to be held criminally responsible for their apparent transgression.
AHMEDABAD, India (AFP) – Indian police said Wednesday they would charge 14 suspected Somali pirates and their three hostages who drifted to within kilometres (miles) of the country's west coast in a fishing boat.
A senior police official said that investigators believed three Yemeni men found on the trawler were hostages of the alleged pirates, who are believed to have hijacked the vessel two weeks ago off the coast of Somalia.
The Yemenis told police the boat had been adrift in the Indian Ocean after running out of fuel and had been carried to the Indian coast by the tide.
All 17 men were detained in the coastal district of Junagarh in Gujarat state, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) southwest from the main regional city of Ahmedabad.
"After interrogation we have ascertained that the Somali nationals are pirates who had kidnapped the three Yemenis," Junagarh police chief Depankar Trivedi told AFP by telephone.
He said police would press charges against the Somalis and their captives for entering India without valid travel documents.
The official said the Somalis were only charged with trespassing because the hijacking occurred beyond India's jurisdiction in international waters.
"We are charging them only for the violation of Indian laws," he said, adding the three Yemenis did not possess travel documents and so were also in breach of India's Passport Act.
Trivedi said a marine police team detained the men on Sunday after local fishermen reported the presence of the Yemen-flagged vessel only a couple of kilometres (miles) off the coast of Gujarat.
India's coastguard and navy are on high alert against pirates seeking to evade the international force patrolling waters off Somalia by attacking shipping much further east in the Indian Ocean.
More than 100 pirates have been caught and are awaiting trial in India following a series of violent skirmishes near the country's Lakshadweep islands since the start of this year.
India, which does not have a specific anti-piracy-law, is planning to frame legislation to deal with the scourge.