Sunday, April 19, 2009

NATO allies practice “Catch and Release” with pirates

Today’s New York Times carries a story about an attempted seizure of a Norwegian tanker last night. NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- NATO warships and helicopters pursued Somali pirates for seven hours after they attacked a Norwegian tanker, NATO spokesmen said Sunday, and the high-speed chase only ended when warning shots were fired at the pirates' skiff. Seven pirates attempted to attack the Norwegian-flagged MV Front Ardenne late Saturday but fled after crew took evasive maneuvers and alerted warships in the area, said Portuguese Lt. Cmdr. Alexandre Santos Fernandes, aboard a warship in the Gulf of Aden, and Cmdr. Chris Davies, of NATO's maritime headquarters in England. You might wonder what happens to these brigands once caught. Here is the surprising answer: Both ships deployed helicopters, and naval officers hailed the pirates over loudspeakers and finally fired warning shots to stop them, Fernandes said, but not before the pirates had dumped most of their weapons overboard. NATO forces boarded the skiff, where they found a rocket-propelled grenade, and interrogated, disarmed and released the pirates. The pirates cannot be prosecuted under Canadian law because they did not attack Canadian citizens or interests and the crime was not committed on Canadian territory. I pointed out the necessity of establishing a legal framework if we are to cure the cancer of piracy in an earlier post last November. The worst thing any nation can do is exhibit weakness and a lack of resolve, it only emboldens the pirates. Piracy on the high seas comes under universal jurisdiction and can be enforced and prosecuted anywhere. Surely the laws of Norway were violated, where are they? If the Canadians don’t permit prosecution, they should not be part of the protection force, they only complicate the problem. Treating piracy as a domestic legal problem will never solve the problem. Only a legal framework that allows preventative force will solve it. Prebble and Decatur went after the source of the Barbary Pirates in 1804 and cleaned house. What would their attitude be of Catch and Release?

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