EUCAP NESTOR: Bolstering the Rule of Law to Counter Piracy in the Horn of Africa – Interview with David HAMMOND

David HAMMONDFollowing retirement for the UK Royal Marines as a former frontline operator and then latterly as a naval barrister (Counsel), David Hammond was instructed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be the UK representative and lead lawyer for the planning, establishment and delivery of the €40m European Union’s “NESTOR” Common Security and Defence policy (CSDP) Counter-Piracy Legal Advisory Programme for East Africa. As part of the advance planning team, David gained unique and valuable experience throughout East Africa, including in Somalia and where he led the legal liaison with the Somaliland and Puntland authorities at Ministerial and Attorney-General level. David successfully delivered the NESTOR Legal Advisory Programme, involving the establishment of significant rule of law programmes and which he headed up until June 2012.

As the Horn of Africa slowly progresses from a strategy of immediate counter-piracy to a strategy of post-piracy development, David kindly accepted our invitation to respond to a few questions on NESTOR’s mandate and operation. The following answers are provided on the basis that they are correct to the best of his current knowledge.

• What is EUCAP NESTOR main role in tackling piracy in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean and, in particular, what are its main thematic areas of operation?

As per the EU Council Decision 2012/389/CFSP of 16 July 2012, the objective of EUCAP NESTOR is to assist the development in the Horn of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean States of a self-sustainable capacity for continued enhancement of their maritime security including counter-piracy, and maritime governance. EUCAP NESTOR will have initial geographic focus on Djibouti, Kenya, the Seychelles and Somalia. EUCAP NESTOR will also be deployed in Tanzania, following receipt by the Union of an invitation from the Tanzanian authorities.

In order to achieve the objective, the tasks of EUCAP NESTOR were identified as being:

(a) assist authorities in the region in achieving the efficient organisation of the maritime security agencies carrying out the coast guard function;

(b) deliver training courses and training expertise to strengthen the maritime capacities of the States in the region, initially Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles, with a view to achieving self-sustainability in training;

(c) assist Somalia in developing its own land-based coastal police capability supported by a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework;

(d) identify priority equipment capability gaps and provide assistance in addressing them, as appropriate, to meet the objective of EUCAP NESTOR;

(e) provide assistance in strengthening national legislation and the rule of law through a regional legal advisory programme, and legal expertise to support the drafting of maritime security and related national legislation;

(f) promote regional cooperation between national authorities responsible for maritime security;

(g) strengthen regional coordination in the field of maritime capacity building;

(h) provide strategic advice through the assignment of experts to key administrations;

(i) implement mission projects and coordinate donations;

(j) develop and conduct a regional information and communication strategy.

• Why the creation of a mission with such peculiar mandate in the Horn of Africa setting?

At that time, and as far as I was aware, it was determined that in concert with various other on-going counter-piracy initiatives, including military action by EUNAVFOR, established work by EU delegations alongside the IMO, UNODC piracy programme and the likes of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, that a land-based regional programme which imparted expert knowledge and training to judicial, constabulary and other engaged entities throughout the Horn of Africa was the most efficient and effect method of assisting with the suppression of the piracy threat. Bolstering the effectiveness of the rule of law throughout affected areas was also seen as being of key importance in assisting with regional political stability.

Hargeysa Secure Hotel and Compound - Courtesy of David Hammond

Hargeysa Secure Hotel and Compound – Courtesy of David Hammond


• What are, therefore, the main differences in the mandates of EUCAP Nestor and EUNAVFOR and how these coordinate their respective activities?

NESTOR, as described, focuses on the imparting of expert constabulary, judicial, coastguard and logistical knowledge by Member State subject matter experts through training courses. This is separate to, but compliments the military presence provided for by EUNAVFOR alongside the on-going initiatives led by the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa.

• What is the current status of EUCAP Nestor deployment and what will be its overall structure and geographic area of operation?

I understand that at the moment staff are currently deployed to three countries: Djibouti (Mission Headquarters), the Republic of the Seychelles and Kenya. They will operate in those countries, plus Somalia and which will be the main focus. Tanzania has been asked to participate but so far has not invited the mission to carry out work there. The mission is mandated to run for 2 years commencing from 16 Jul 2012 and is headed up by Jacques Launay.

• What were the most challenging aspects in EUCAP Nestor set up and preliminary deployment process, given its geographic and thematic breadth?

The lasting memory I have in relation to the initial stages of the pre-deployment planning for the Technical Assessment Mission (TAM) and subsequent drafting of the Concept of Operations which led to the Operational plan (OPLAN), was the positive drive and collegiate Member State political will in Brussels to make the operation work. This meant significant and sustained drafting, revision and constant presentational updates to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) from what was a small team, as set against the enormity of the task which then faced us. This was undertaken in a structured, collegiate and team-focused manner with many long days and nights spent brain-storming the successive issues that arose. This was undertaken with significant levels of professionalism from selected Member State individuals who had previously never before worked together and this often required a ready sense of humour from all of us.

For my part, once deployed in the Horn of Africa, the issue of establishing a new rule of law and legal advisory programme sat with me due to the limited size of the team. The TAM ran for over one month in total and involved multiple visits to five States by all team members. There was continuous ‘hot’ planning, setting up of meetings on the sour of the moment and exploiting every opportunity to meet key in-country stakeholders. It was what I would call “quick and dirty planning and mission development” and which proved most successful.

The biggest challenge was, in my mind, to achieve local buy-in for our mission and its purpose. This meant that I needed to identify and seek out the key decision makers at every stage and convince them of the benefits of the EU mission and especially of the merits of the Legal Advisory Programme.

Meeting with Puntland Attorney General - Courtesy of David Hammond

Meeting with Puntland Attorney General – Courtesy of David Hammond

 

The most striking mission development work for the Legal Advisory Programme that I undertook, was in Somaliland and Puntland alongside the judicial and ministerial authorities. This included being present at piracy trials in the Garowe court and spending time in discussion with the Attorney General, before going on to meet with the Chief Justice and Minister of Justice and Religious Affairs for Puntland. The issue of extending the rule of law into the coastal areas, as well as support within the IDP camps for education in terms of women’s rights and humanitarian law was of particular note and interest for me. Subsequently, I was able to draft the individual programmes that would assist in some of those areas of articulated need and which was most gratifying. In Somaliland, the essence of the interactions were the same in terms of seeking out areas in which we could assist the authorities with the development of the rule of law through imparting knowledge via training and advisory roles.

• Current available data shows that piracy attacks in Somalia are diminishing. Is this the result of the international community efforts to combat piracy and what impact will this have on the continuation of such efforts, particularly the full implementation of EUCAP Nestor mandate? 

I am informed that the decrease in attacks is due to a variety of factors, including: EUNAVFOR’s ATALANTA operation and other naval operations, greater use of PSCs, greater use of best practices to avoid risks as well as improved information sharing. However, I am informed that this reduction is probably fragile and could be reversed without careful oversight. As such, the environment in which EUCAP NESTOR was envisaged to act has changed, but arguably there is now an even greater need for the mission as the success of reducing piracy at sea has opened the possibility of doing even more to create security and stability on land, which will provide the conditions for a lasting reduction in piracy.

David Hammond can be contacted at:

david.hammond@9bedfordrow.co.uk

http://www.9bedfordrow.co.uk/members/David_Hammond

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/davideuanhammond

Liability for the Destruction of Suspected Pirate Skiffs?

In one of their latest reported joint anti-piracy operation, EUNAVFOR and Combined Task Force 151 announced the disruption of potential piracy attacks off the Somali coast. In November 2012, the Romanian frigate ROS Regele Ferdinand, under EUNAVFOR command, and Turkish warship TCG Gemlik, of Combined Task Force 151, apprehended nine suspected pirates at sea off the coast of Somalia. Earlier, a Swedish EUNAVFOR maritime patrol aircraft located the skiff at 420 nautical miles east of Mogadishu, an area known for pirate activities. At the scene, the TGC Gemlik sent a boarding team to intercept and search the suspected vessel, which for over an hour tried to evade capture. The suspected pirates were then embarked onto the ROS Regele Ferdinand for futher questioning and evidence collection to assess the possibility of their prosecution. No fishing supplies were found on board, while it remains unclear whether the suspects were armed. Shortly after their apprehension, the suspected pirates were released onto a Somali beach for lack of sufficient evidence to proceed to their prosecution. According to EUNAVFOR, despite the strong suspicion that it was a pirate boat, it was determined that there was not sufficient evidence to build a case and prosecute the suspected pirates, as they were not caught actually committing any crime. In additon, building a case against the suspects would be too time-consuming and onerous.

German frigate Hamburg sinks an abandoned skiff off the coast of Somalia. Credit: Christian Bundeswehr - Reuters

German frigate Hamburg sinks an abandoned skiff off the coast of SomaliaCredit: Christian Bundeswehr – Reuters

However, their skiff and other effects on board, including fuel and ladders, were instead destroyed. According to EUNAVFOR, this will prevent the suspected pirates from using the skiff to attack ships in the future. By means of example, this incident, by no means uncommon, raises the question of the diffferent evidentiary grounds and standards of proof for the prosecution of suspected pirates and the destruction of boats and equipment belonging to them. While the destruction of a pirate vessel can prevent the perpetration of further piracy attacks, the sinking of a fishing boat, however small, might put a strain to the fishermen’s livelihoods. Article 106 of UNCLOS (and Article 110(3)) provides for the possible liability for any loss or damange caused by the seizure of a suspected pirate ship when effected without adequate grounds.

Liability for seizure without adequate grounds

Where the seizure of a ship or aircraft on suspicion of piracy has been effected without adequate grounds, the State making the seizure shall be liable to the State the nationality of which is possessed by the ship or aircraft for any loss or damage caused by the seizure.

What are the grounds for the seizure and destruction of suspected pirate vessels and how do these differ from those provided for the arrest and prosecution of suspected pirates? In this regard, the legal framework applicable to the contrast to piracy, particularly in Somalia, needs some additional clarification and interpretation. UNCLOS explicitly provides only for a right of visit when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that a ship is engaged in piracy (Article 110) and for a right of hot pursuit of a ship into the high seas only when there are good reasons to believe that a violation was committed (Article 111). The SUA Convention, its additional protocol, as well as the Djibouti Code of Conduct also contain references to various evidentiary thresholds, mainly reiterating the principles above contained in UNCLOS relevant to cooperation, rights of visit and liability for loss or damage.

In its recent Resolution 2077 (2012), approved after a significant debate on piracy as a threat to international peace and security, the Security Council renewed its call to continue the fight against piracy, including through the disposition of boats and other relevant equipment for which there are reasonable grounds for suspecting their use in the commission of piracy and armed robbery at sea:

10. Renews its call upon States and regional organizations that have the capacity to do so, to take part in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, in particular, consistent with this resolution and international law, by deploying naval vessels, arms and military aircraft and through seizures and disposition of boats, vessels, arms and other related equipment used in the commission of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, or for which there are reasonable grounds for suspecting such use;

Indeed, EUNAVFOR’s seizures or disposals of suspected pirate skiff are premised upon the standard of “reasonabile grounds to suspect” (see also here). How to interpret, therefore, this standard? Resolution 2077, issued under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, also makes various references to the need to ensure compliance with international law and more particularly, “applicable human rights law” and “due process of law in accordance with international standards” in the pursuit of accountability for suspected pirates (see also paras 16-18 and 20). A review of international human rights and criminal law, while concerning crimes of a different nature, might thus provide for futher guidance. Various standards exist and, admittedly, some differ from others by mere semantics. Article 58(1) of the ICC Statute, relevant to the issuing of a warrant of arrests, provides for the evidentiary threshold of “reasonable grounds to believe”. This is significantly different from the threshold required for the confirmation of charges against an individual under Article 61(7) of the same Statute (“substantial grounds to believe”) or, obviously, for a conviction under Article 66(3) (“beyond reasonable doubt”). “Reasonable grounds to believe” are also required before the ICTY for the submission of an indictment by the Prosecutor or in relation to contempt proceedings (Articles 47 and 77(c) of the ICTY Rules of Procedure, respectively). The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber equated the “reasonable grounds to believe” standard to the “reasonable suspicion” standard under Article 5(1)(c) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Arguably, this comparaison appears questionable. Believing is a concept stronger than suspecting. However, while also relevant to arrest and detention, the ECHR determined that this standard consists of the existence of facts and information which would satisfy an objective observer that the person concerned may have committed a crime. The procedure for the submission of an indictment before the ICTY provides the following description of the meaning of “reasonable grounds”:

Reasonable grounds point to such facts and circumstances as would justify a reasonable or ordinarily prudent man to believe that a suspect has committed a crime. To constitute reasonable grounds, facts must be such which are within the possession of the Prosecutor which raise a clear suspicion of the suspect being guilty of the crime. [...] It is sufficient that the Prosecutor has acted with caution, impartiality and diligence as a reasonably prudent prosecutor would under the circumstances to ascertain the truth of his suspicions. It is not necessary that he has double checked every possible piece of evidence, or investigated the crime personally, or instituted an enquiry into any special matter. [...] The evidence, therefore, need not be overly convincing or conclusive; it should be adequate or satisfactory to warrant the belief that the suspect has committed the crime. The expression “sufficient evidence” is thus not synonymous with “conclusive evidence” or “evidence beyond reasonable doubt.” (Review of the Indictment against Ivica Rajic, Decision of 29 August 1995, Case no. IT-95-12)

Given the limited role played by EUNAVFOR in the investigation and prosecution of piracy, perhaps reference to recent international commissions of inquiry, whose standards are generally lower than those of purely judicial institutions, might also provide for additional guidance. For instance, the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur acted upon a standard of “reliable body of material consistent with other verified circumstances, which tends to show that a person may reasonably be suspected of being involved in the commission of a crime” (para. 15).

Pirates or Fishermen? - Courtesy AP

Pirates or Fishermen? – Courtesy AP

Put plainly, the review above shows that a discrete amount of supporting evidence and the mere possibility, rather than the certainty, of the commission of a crime are therefore required to meet the “reasonable suspicion” standard encompassed in Resolution 2077 for the seizure and disposition of suspected pirate skiffs. It is, arguably, an extremely low standard but it demarcates the basic threshold for piracy-disruption activities. Suspecting the commission of a crime, however, falls a long way from having demonstrable proof. While this standard might also be akin to that required for the arrest of a suspected pirate, those necessary to proceed to his investigation and prosecution are increasingly higher and still depend upon factors such as the quantity and the quality of the evidence, as well as the willingness of State actors to proceed. Finally, several questions remain on the suitability and susceptibility of claims of unlawful destruction of vessels to be brought before Somali authorities when adequated grounds for such destruction are missing or in doubt.

Weekly Piracy Review: Renewed Attacks

As monsoon season is coming to a close, it appears this week that pirates are returning to the waters of the Indian Ocean. On Wednesday night the ITS San Guisto, the flagship vessel of the EU Naval Forces, captured seven suspected pirates who were spotted on a small boat in the sea off the coast of Somalia. While in the area as part of a counter-piracy mission, the crew of the San Guisto noticed that the small boat was carrying a ladder and many oil drums [which were found to be full of oil and water, allowing the boat to stay in open water longer]. It is atypical for small boats to carry such large ladders; this indicated that the boat was at sea with the intent of hijacking a merchant vessel. The commander of the forces on the warship noted that this was the first sighting of a pirate vessel in these waters for more than three months.

On Thursday another seven suspected pirates were apprehended in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia. After ambushing the Spanish ship Izurdia off the Horn of Africa, the skiff carrying the pirates was intercepted and boarded by a helicopter team deployed from the Dutch amphibious transport the HMS Rotterdam. The Rotterdam has patrolled the waters around the Gulf of Aden since July in an effort to ward off piracy as part of NATO’s campaign to thwart the problem in the region. As of this posting there are very few details regarding the attack carried out on the Spanish ship.

Last Friday twelve armed pirates boarded a German-owned tanker off the coast of West Africa, removing the ship’s stores of oil to their barge. These suspected pirates then held the crew for one day while they raided the ship. Before disembarking, the pirates locked all crew members in the master’s cabin. Some of the crew members did sustain minor injuries during the ordeal, but it appears that there were no hostages or casualties.

According to the ICC‘s International Maritime Bureau, so far in October there have been six reported pirate attacks or attempted attacks on merchant vessels.  These attacks have occurred off the coasts of Egypt, Somalia, Togo, the Ivory Coast, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Though maritime piracy has experienced a lull in recent months, authorities continue to urge those operating vessels in the waters of the Indian Ocean to remain vigilant against renewed attacks. At this time it appears that pirates hold eleven vessels and about 188 hostages from those vessels.

Pirate Attacks Hit “Low Season” in Somalia – Why and What’s Next?

According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia continued to fall sharply in the first half of 2012.  July 2012 was particularly significant, with no reported attempted attack. Remarkably, it was the first full month with no noteworthy pirate activity off the coast of Somalia and the larger Indian Ocean since at least half a decade. The last reported attack dates back to 26 June 2012, when a Maltese-flagged bulk ship was fired upon near the Yemeni coast. As of 29 July 2012, Somali pirates are still holding at least 11 vessels and 174 crew members.

A piracy situational map we’ve rarely seen – Courtesy Oceanus Live

The suprising drop in Somali pirate activity is spurring a debate on the reasons behind it and the impact of the international efforts to counter pirate attacks. Among the main factors are the pre-emptive and disruptive counter piracy tactics employed by the international navies, with military operations now extending both at sea and on land, the effective implementation of the Best Management Practices by the shipping industry, including the use of citadels and other ship hardening means, the strengthening of a regional judicial system of law enforcement and prosecution, also targeting piracy financiers and kingpins, and in particular, the manyfold increase in the use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel and government-provided Vessel Protection Detachments by ships travelling through the area. It is likely that all these factors together and concurrently have contributed to the falling numbers, tipping the risk aspect to rise above the possible profit expectations for wannabe pirates. Bad monsoon weather is also an additional factor often overlooked, with July and August being traditionally difficult months to set off to sea in the region for both pirate mother ships and small skiffs.

What’s Behind the Horizon?

The current status quo requires the operational strategy to continue and focus also on wider land-based solutions encompassing both security and economic development. Some commentators have warned that pirates and their financiers are simply sitting idle awaiting for better days to come.  Notably, August 2012 will mark the end of the Somalia TGF. While there are high hopes for a better future for Somalia, it is difficult to assess how this will reshape the Country’s current political landscape. There are also fears that the successes of current anti-piracy measures will detract the necessary attention below warning levels with a consequential lull in the international and national effors to combat piracy. If so, the momentum could shift back in the pirates’ favor.

Mauritius Strengthens Its Anti-Piracy Capacity

Last month, Mauritius became the latest country in the Indian Ocean area to enter into an agreement with the United Kingdom for the transfer of suspected pirates before its courts for prosecution. The agreement was announced earlier this year during the London Conference on Somalia, which highligthed the UK driving role in Somalia’s recovery, including the fight against piracy. Mauritius thus follows in the footsteps of Tanzania and the Seychelles who have recently penned similar agreements with the UK, in 2012 and 2010, respectively, aiming to break the pirates business circle by providing a jurisdictional basis for their prosecution after apprehension at sea.

Prime Minister David Cameron and his Mauritius counterpart Navinchandra Ramgoolam sign the prisoners transfer agreement – FCO

Notoriously, foreign navies deployed off the Somali coast to counter piracy are reluctant to take pirate suspects to their own countries because they either lack the jurisdiction to put them on trial, or fear that the pirates may seek asylum. Evidentiary hurdles are also seen as an increasing impediment to effective prosecutions. Suspected pirates detained on the high seas are therefore often released after a brief detention due to the governments’ reluctance to bring them to trial.

Under the terms of the new international agreement, Mauritius will receive and try suspected pirates captured by British Forces patrolling the Indian Ocean. Last year, Mauritius entered into another agreement with the European Union for the transfer, trial and detention of suspected pirates captured by the EUNAVFOR naval mission. As reported on this blog, Mauritius has also inked a deal with the TFG, Somaliland and Puntland to start to transfer convicted pirates to Somali prisons, paving the way for the commencement of prosecutions in Mauritius.

The first trial of a suspected Somali pirates is due to commence in September 2012. In the meantime, Mauritius, already a signatory of UNCLOS, further strengthened its anti-piracy capabilities by adopting various relevant legislative instruments. First and foremost, a new anti piracy law was adopted at the end of 2011. The new Piracy and Maritime Violence Act 2011, premised on the transnational dimension of modern day piracy and the principle of universal jurisdiction to counter it, incorporates nearly verbatim in the national judicial system the definition of piracy as contained in Article 101 of UNCLOS. Acts of violence within Mauritius internal waters are defined as “Maritime Attack”. The novel term adds a degree of fragmentation in the definition of this offence, which is otherwise commonly referred to internationally as “armed robbery at sea”. In an attempt to cater for a wider range of piracy related criminal activities, the Piracy Act also criminalizes the offences of hijacking and destroying ships as well as endangering the safety of navigation. For each of these offences, the Piracy Act provides for a maximum term of imprisonment of 60 years.

More interestingly, the Piracy Act introduces the possibility for the holding of video-link testimonies and/or the admission of evidence in written form where the presence of a witness, for instance a seafearer, cannot be secured. While not uncommon in certain national criminal jurisdictions, as well as those of international criminal courts, the introduction of out of court statements, particularly when relevant to the acts and conducts of an accused, could trigger fair trial rights issues. These issues are principally due to the limited ability of the defence to test such evidence when relied upon at trial in the absence of the witness. In light of these concerns, the Piracy Act provides for the admissibility of evidence in rebuttal as well as for the court’s discretionary power in assessing the weight to be given to written statements.

In addition to the Piracy Act, which entered into force on 1 June 2012, Mauritius also adopted and/or amended its laws concerning assets recovery and mutual assistance in criminal matters in order to foster cooperation with foreign governments to tackle pirates and criminal cartels. The implementation of the agreement with the UK, however, is still to be fully tested. In May 2012, the UK announced that defence budget cuts required it to scale back its naval commitments in the region, withdrawning its ships from full-time counter-piracy operations.

 

The HMS Ocean Arrives in London Ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games – Courtesy AP

These difficulties have been compounded by the need to commit ships and personnel to the security efforts for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The UK long-term commitment to combat piracy in Somalia extends beyond its current patrolling and disruption efforts in the Indian Ocean. To remain within the Olympic spirit, French Baron Pierre de Coubertin, considered the founder of the modern Olympics Games, famously noted how “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”  With piracy attacks in the region at their lowest level, during monsoon season, however, it is worth considering whether we should be content with the current efforts to combat piracy, or whether we should be aiming for more.