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

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Piracy: Declining in the Gulf of Aden, Rising in the Gulf of Guinea

We are pleased to welcome Milena Sterio as a contributing author to Communis Hostis Omnium. She is an Associate Professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, where she teaches international law and international criminal law.  She has published numerous articles on the topic of maritime piracy, and she frequently lectures on this topic.  She is a member of the Piracy Working Group, an expert think tank founded by members of the prominent non-governmental organization, the Public International Law and Policy Group.  In her capacity as Piracy Working Group member, she traveled to the Seychelles and to Mauritius, where she consulted with local prosecutors and judges on best strategies toward successful national piracy prosecutions.

A crew member prepares to board a tanker that was hijacked by pirates in Benin on 24 July 2011. Photo: IRIN/Daniel Hayduk

Maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere in the Indian Ocean appears to be on the decline.  In 2012, only 35 piracy attacks took place, compared to 163 attacks in 2009.  As of January 2013, Somali pirates were holding 4 large ships with an estimated 108 hostages.  In the past, the pirates had held dozens of ships and several hundred hostages at one time.  Some news reports indicate that many Somali pirates seem ready to abandon this once lucrative criminal endeavor.  Last year, Mohamed Abdi Hassan, a high-profile Somali pirate, was quoted as saying “I have given up piracy and succeeded in encouraging more youths to give up piracy.”

This decline in piratical activity off the east cost of the African continent is most likely due to several factors.  First, the Gulf of Aden and other waters of the Indian Ocean have been more heavily patrolled by joint maritime forces of several nations, including European Union and NATO-led fleets.  The presence of naval forces in these waters has deterred some pirates from attempting attacks on merchant ships.  Second, many merchant and passenger cruise ships sailing off the east coast of Africa have been staffed with armed security guards.  Statistics show that no successful pirate attack has ever occurred against a ship protected by armed guards.  Third, Somali pirates seemed to engage in the crime of piracy because it represented a lucrative business opportunity, which posed minimal risk and promised tens of thousands of dollars in financial gains.  Today, piracy is a more risky endeavor, because of the presence of naval fleets in the Indian Ocean as well as armed guards aboard ships.  Thus, Somali pirates may seem willing to abandon this criminal enterprise in order to possibly explore other kinds of opportunities.

Yet, although piracy seems to be declining off the east coast of Africa, the opposite is true for the west coast of the African continent.  Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, home to major oil-producing states such as Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Ghana, has been on the rise.  34 piracy incidents were recorded between January and September 2012, up from thirty in 2011. Togo reported more attacks in 2012 than in the previous five years combined, with three vessels hijacked, two boarded and six attempted attacks.  Piracy has also been on the rise in Benin.  In addition, Nigeria reported over twenty attacks in 2012.  And on February 3, 2013, a French oil tanker was reported missing off the Ivory Coast; according to the International Maritime Bureau, the ship was probably pirated off the shores of Nigeria.

The piracy model in the Gulf of Guinea resembles its counterpart in the Gulf of Aden in terms of the pirates’ modus operandi: in West Africa, pirates sail out to the sea on larger vessels but then launch attacks using smaller skiffs.  In addition, pirates in West Africa seem to be resorting to this crime because of factors similar to those that have existed in Somalia for several decades: insecurity, poverty, as well as a lack of education and employment opportunities.  However, while Somali pirates seemed mostly after collecting ransoms from shipping companies in exchange for the crew and cargo, pirates in West Africa seem more interested in keeping the cargo (mostly oil) of any successful hijacking operations, which they then sell on the black market.  Reports also indicate that pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are more prone to violence, and that they act in more brutal ways toward the captured crewmembers.  And because the Gulf of Guinea is a rich oil-producing region, its strategic importance, and thus the necessity of curbing the rising piracy threat, may be even greater than the piracy menace in the Gulf of Aden had ever been.

Unsurprisingly, like in the case of Somali piracy, the United Nations Security Council has become involved in finding solutions for this developing regional crisis.  On February 29, 2012, the Security Council adopted resolution 2039 calling on the Secretary-General to “support efforts towards mobilising resources following the creation of the regional strategy to assist in building national and regional capacities in close consultation with states and regional and extraregional organizations.”  Furthermore, on October 31, 2012, the United Nations Security Council, in resolution 2018, condemned all acts of maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea and encouraged states in the region to work together toward a comprehensive response to the menace of piracy.  The Security Council, in this unanimously adopted resolution, encouraged several regional organizations (the Council encouraged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC)) to jointly develop a strategy against maritime piracy.  Such joint strategy could entail the drafting of more comprehensive domestic laws which would criminalize piracy and armed robbery at sea, as well as the development of an information-sharing regional center.  Moreover, the regional anti-piracy efforts could include the development of domestic laws which would implement international agreements existing in the field of international maritime law.  In addition, ECOWAS, ECCAS and GGC could engage in bilateral or regional maritime patrols in the Gulf of Guinea, in order to ensure the safety of maritime navigation and thwart potential piratical attacks.  Finally, the Security Council urged member states of ECOWAS, ECCAS, and GGC to cooperate with other states, such as states where ships are registered, and states where victims or perpetrators come from, in the prosecution of pirates as well as of piracy facilitators and financiers, in accordance with applicable international law.   The Security Council thus encouraged all states in the international community to assist countries in the region in strengthening anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Guinea.

Like the Security Council, the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has also expressed his intention to focus on the piracy problem in the Gulf of Guinea, by deploying a United Nations assessment mission to the region in order to explore options on how to best address the problem.  According to the Secretary-General, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea could hinder economic development and undermine security in the region.

Within the next few months, the Security Council expects a briefing from Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), on the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report, including an update on the Gulf of Guinea piracy problem.  The international community will have hopefully learned from the Gulf of Aden piracy epidemic, which seems to have been successfully curbed through coordinated international maritime efforts, that anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Guinea will similarly require international and regional strategy and a comprehensive anti-piracy plan.

UN Optimistic for Progress in Somalia – Looks to Increase Its Engagement

Later next week, the UN Security Council will resume its discussion on Somalia. Among the main issues will be the future of AMISON as well as the embargo on arms and Somali charcoal. Before the Security Council is also the Secretary General Report S/2013/69 pursuant to Resolution 2067 (2012) containing the Secretary General’s options and recommendations on the UN presence in Somalia. The Report considers several possible structural configurations for a future UN presence in Somalia further to the end of the political transition period and the development of the democratization process, including the setting up of a peacekeeping, peace-support or a peacebuilding institution, either in coordination or jointly with the existing Africa Union presence. While the possible establishment of a peacekeeping operation in the near future remains under review, the Secretary General currently favors an assistance mission located directly in Somalia that would integrate the functions of the UN Political Office for Somalia and the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) but keep the UN humanitarian country team separate:

United Nations assistance mission. Under this option, a new United Nations mission would deliver political and peacebuilding support with a presence across Somalia. In terms of logistics support to AMISOM, a dedicated Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mission Support would report directly to the Department of Field Support in New York on delivery of the AMISOM support package, in order to ensure efficient delivery to AMISOM. At the same time, she or he would report to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on United Nations mission support issues and policy and political questions arising from the functions of UNSOA relevant to the mandate of the United Nations assistance mission. The United Nations country team would remain structurally separate, but would participate in enhanced mechanisms for strategic integration and operational collaboration, supported by an expanded office of the Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator. The scope for full structural integration would be reviewed annually, on the basis of progress in the political, security and humanitarian situation. Criteria for this review would be developed by the Somalia Integrated Task Force. This option enhances the strategic integration of United Nations functions while preserving distinct reporting lines for different United Nations mandates at the current sensitive stage of operations. This option is recommended; (para. 75(c))

There are reasons to believe that the Security Council will endorse the Secretary General’s recommendations and the deployment of the new mission will commence soon. The fight against piracy remains one of the main area of focus. Resolution 2077 (2012) renewed the current anti-piracy operations for another 12 months. Worthy of note is also the Secretary General support for the creation of a maritime component for AMISOM to consolidate control over southern and central Somalia and contribute to the training and mentoring of the Somali coast guard and maritime police (para. 82). Undoubtedly, the current drop in piracy attacks in the region is among the major successes of the international community involvement in Somalia so far. In this regard, it is essential that the current piracy deterrence and prosecution efforts are further developed as a starting point to enhance Somalia’s overall security and justice sectors:

The improved security situation in Somalia should help in the fight against piracy by denying the perpetrators safe havens both on land and along the coast. I encourage the new Government to develop a comprehensive national maritime economic and security strategy and a supporting legal framework, including declaring Somalia’s exclusive economic zone, working closely with all stakeholders. The resources that the maritime environment brings would contribute to financing the changes that are necessary for Somalia to recover from the last two decades of conflict. In this regard and as part of the wider security sector support, assistance should also be mobilized and delivered to the justice and corrections services. I have emphasized that the international community must address the root causes of piracy — instability, lawlessness and a lack of effective governance in Somalia — and therefore continue to intensify its engagement to link the counter-piracy approach with development and State-building goals (see S/2012/783). (Para. 88)

Language, Capacity Issues Plague Indian Prosecutions of Somali Pirates

Suspects aboard the pirate ship the INS Taba on their way to Mumbai after being arrested by the Indian navy in March 2011. Photograph: Indian navy/EPA

The trial of about 120 Somalis in India is encountering significant obstacles, including difficulty finding qualified Somali-speaking interpreters, procuring deposition evidence from victims, and dealing with the sheer volume of cases on backlog. India’s navy has been very active in helping to patrol the seas off the coast of Somalia. It also recently used its turn as President of the Security Council to put the fight against worldwide piracy at center stage. Perhaps because of its pro-active approach, India has taken into custody a large number of suspected pirates. As we have seen in any number of western countries taking up piracy prosecutions, there are substantial challenges that come with prosecuting Somalis in a transnational setting. This is not to mention the legal obstacles faced by countries attempting to revive centuries old laws to address the resurgence of this type of criminality. As we surveyed in 2011, India’s legal framework for piracy required updating. Video-link testimony and interpretation, in addition to, a more active foreign office might assist the prosecutions in these cases.  Of course, all of these solutions require resources and technological capacity. This is true whether prosecutions move forward in the Netherlands, the U.S. or in India.

Italian Marines to be tried in Special Court in Delhi for Enrica Lexie Incident

The two Italian Marines to be put on trial before a special court in Delhi

India’s Supreme Court has rejected a bid by the Italian government to transfer to Italy the case of two of its marines charged with the murder of two Indian fishermen. The judges said that the marines would be tried in a special court in the capital, Delhi. As previously discussed here and here, in the Enrica Lexie incident Indian fishermen were shot and killed by an Italian Vessel Protection Detachment on board to protect against pirates operating in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. Jurisdiction over the incident was contested by Italy and India leading to litigation before the Supreme Court of India which has now pronounced its view. A friend of the blog has provided us the Judgement of the Supreme Court.  Here are the crucial paragraphs:

97. In my view, since India is a signatory, she is obligated to respect the provisions of UNCLOS 1982, and to apply the same if there is no conflict with the domestic law. In this context, both the countries may have to subject themselves to the provisions of Article 94 of the Convention which deals with the duties of the Flag State and, in particular, sub-Article (7) which provides that each State shall cause an inquiry to be held into every marine casualty or incident of navigation on the high seas involving a ship flying its flag and causing loss of life or serious injury to nationals of another State. It is also stipulated that the Flag State and the other State shall cooperate in the conduct of any inquiry held by that other State into any such marine casualty or incident of navigation.

98. The principles enunciated in the Lotus case (supra) have, to some extent, been watered down by Article 97 of UNCLOS 1982. Moreover, as observed in Starke’s International Law, referred to by Mr. Salve, the territorial criminal jurisdiction is founded on various principles which provide that, as a matter of convenience, crimes should be dealt with by the States whose social order is most closely affected. However, it has also been observed that some public ships and armed forces of foreign States may enjoy a degree of immunity from the territorial jurisdiction of a nation.

99. This brings me to the question of applicability of the provisions of the Indian Penal Code to the case in hand, in view of Sections 2 and 4 thereof. Of course, the applicability of Section 4 is no longer in question in this case on account of the concession made on behalf of the State of Kerala in the writ proceedings before the Kerala High Court. However, Section 2 of the Indian Penal Code as extracted hereinbefore provides otherwise. Undoubtedly, the incident took place within the Contiguous Zone over which, both under the provisions of the Maritime Zones Act, 1976, and UNCLOS 1982, India is entitled to exercise rights of sovereignty. However, as decided by this Court in the Aban Loyd Chiles Offshore Ltd. Case (supra), referred to by Mr. Salve, Sub-section (4) of Section 7 only provides for the Union of India to have sovereign rights limited to exploration, exploitation, conservation and management of the natural resources, both living and non-living, as well as for producing energy from tides, winds and currents, which cannot be equated with rights of sovereignty over the said areas, in the Exclusive Economic Zone. It also provides for the Union of India to exercise other ancillary rights which only clothes the Union of India with sovereign rights and not rights of sovereignty in the Exclusive Economic Zone. The said position is reinforced under Sections 6 and 7 of the Maritime Zones Act, 1976, which also provides that India’s sovereignty extends over its Territorial Waters while, the position is different in respect of the Exclusive Economic Zone. I am unable to accept Mr. Banerji’s submissions to the contrary to the effect that Article 59 of the Convention permits States to assert rights or jurisdiction beyond those specifically provided in the Convention.

100. What, therefore, transpires from the aforesaid discussion is that while India is entitled both under its Domestic Law and the Public International Law to exercise rights of sovereignty up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline on the basis of which the width of Territorial Waters is measured, it can exercise only sovereign rights within the Exclusive Economic Zone for certain purposes. The incident of firing from the Italian vessel on the Indian shipping vessel having occurred within the Contiguous Zone, the Union of India is entitled to prosecute the two Italian marines under the criminal justice system prevalent in the country. However, the same is subject to the provisions of Article 100 of UNCLOS 1982. I agree with Mr. Salve that the “Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Family Relations and Cooperation between States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations” has to be conducted only at the level of the Federal or Central Government and cannot be the subject matter of a proceeding initiated by a Provincial/State Government.

101. While, therefore, holding that the State of Kerala has no jurisdiction to investigate into the incident, I am also of the view that till such time as it is proved that the provisions of Article 100 of the UNCLOS 1982 apply to the facts of this case, it is the Union of India which has jurisdiction to proceed with the investigation and trial of the Petitioner Nos.2 and 3 in the Writ Petition. The Union of India is, therefore, directed, in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, to set up a Special Court to try this case and to dispose of the same in accordance with the provisions of the Maritime Zones Act, 1976, the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and most importantly, the provisions of UNCLOS 1982, where there is no conflict between the domestic law and UNCLOS 1982. The pending proceedings before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kollam, shall stand transferred to the Special Court to be constituted in terms of this judgment and it is expected that the same shall be disposed of expeditiously. This will not prevent the Petitioners herein in the two matters from invoking the provisions of Article 100 of UNCLOS 1982, upon adducing evidence in support thereof, whereupon the question of jurisdiction of the Union of India to investigate into the incident and for the Courts in India to try the accused may be reconsidered. If it is found that both the Republic of Italy and the Republic of India have concurrent jurisdiction over the matter, then these directions will continue to hold good.

The Judgement is something of a compromise as it takes jurisdiction away from the state of Kerala where local press were decidedly one-sided in their evaluations of the parties at fault. The trial will take place in Delhi where the marines might have a better chance of receiving a fair trial. However, the judgement rejects Italy’s claim to exclusive criminal jurisdiction in this case. The Supreme Court’s reading of the Lotus case in view of UNCLOS is crucial and merits further analysis. We hope to provide further analysis soon.

The Report of the International Piracy Ransoms Task Force is Available

The International Piracy  Ransoms Task Force, established at the London Conference on Somalia, issued its final Report on December 2012. The objective of the Task Force, composed of representatives of 14 States, was “to develop a greater understanding of the payment of ransoms in cases of piracy, in order to put forward policy recommendations to the international community as to how to avoid, reduce or prevent the payment of ransoms. The ultimate goal of this effort is to reach a point where pirates are no longer able to profit from ransom payments and thus abandon the practice of kidnapping for ransom.”

The conclusions and recommendations of the Task Force, included in the Report, build upon the following main options to reduce and avoid the risk of ransom payments to pirates:

  • strengthen the co-ordination between Flag States, the private sector and military responders to prepare for potential hostage situations, in order to shorten the decision-making process during the narrow window of opportunity for intervention after a piracy incident;
  • develop a new strategic partnership between Flag States, the private sector and law enforcement agencies that brings together those tackling piracy and those subjected to it in a united effort to break the piracy business model. In particular, this partnership should develop a more co-ordinated approach to information-sharing which would greatly enhance the quality and quantity of information exchange both to reduce ransom payments and to provide evidence to pursue and prosecute all involved in piracy, from those directly attacking ships to the kingpins who direct this organised crime;
  • encourage the implementation of anti-piracy measures, including still greater compliance with industry Best Management Practice, under the leadership of flag states and supported by the private sector, including insurance companies, in whose interests it is to mitigate risks.

Among the main practical recommendations put forward in the Report are the consolidation of various regional information-sharing frameworks to achieve a “one stop shop” mechanism for the diffusion of relevant information in the immediate post-hijack phase; the conduct of ransom negotiations with the knowledge of relevant national and international authorities in order to foster mutual assistance between these and the private sector; and the development of a mechanism maximising the evidence-gathering process immediately after the release of the vessel or its crew for subsequent prosecutions.

In line with the Task Force’s objective, the 15 page-long Report focuses mainly on the establishment of broad policies to improve communication and coordination to prevent hostage and ransom situations in the future. Several of these policies have been already under discussion for long time and by a number of institutions involved in the fight against piracy. Hopefully, the issuing of the Report will provide for a swift implementation of these policies. Regrettably, the Report does not contain an analysis and more practical recommendations directly relevant to actual hostage-taking, vessels’ hijacks and, more particularly, ransom situations. Given the wealth of knowledge and the technical resources available to the Task Force and its member states, as well as other participants from the private sector, it would have been preferable to expand on the Task Force’s mandate to immediately initiate an information sharing and lesson-learned process relevant to these aspects of piracy ransoms.

Shibin files appellate brief

On December 13, Mohammad Shibin filed an Appellate Brief with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Shibin was charged with eight crimes, comprising fifteen separate counts, for his alleged role as a hostage negotiator in the hijackings of the Marida Marguerite, a German merchant vessel manned by foreign nationals, and the S/V Quest, an American sailing vessel with Americans on board. At trial, Shibin was convicted of all fifteen counts and sentenced to multiple life sentences plus 120 months in prison.

This post will offer a brief summary of the defendant’s arguments followed by even briefer commentary concerning the plausibility of those arguments. On balance, Shibin may have earned himself a retrial on a couple of issues, but he is highly unlikely to escape punishment altogether.

Mohammad Shibin shortly after his arrest.

Shibin’s first argument on appeal is that the two counts of piracy under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1651 and 2 should be dismissed because, “[i]n what could be characterized as almost indifference to this essential requirement, the government failed to present any evidence that Shibin had at any point committed any act upon the high seas whatsoever” (emphasis in original). In support of this argument, Shibin advances the plain language of § 1651, the legislative history of §§ 1651 and 2, prior lower court opinions on the issue, and customary international law as found in the Harvard Draft Convention and the Geneva Convention on the High Seas. These sources, according to the defendant, all suggest that universal jurisdiction over piracy only exists for those acts committed on the high seas or outside the territorial jurisdiction of any state, and that § 1651 only purpose is to criminalize those extraterritorial acts.

I have written a great deal about this argument in the past, and rather than re-hash it all here, I’ll direct readers to this EJIL Talk post and to other on CHO. I will add, however, that I agree that using § 2 to provide for universal jurisdiction over facilitators who act from with a single nation’s territory is impermissible under the Charming Betsy Canon. Ultimately, though, this is an issue that has yet to be fully litigated, so it is anyone’s guess how it will come out in the end.

Second, Shibin advances the ambitious argument that all counts should be dismissed because Shibin was improperly brought before the U.S. courts. Shibin rightly notes that a pair of Supreme Court cases, Frisbie v. Collins and Ker v. Illinois, stand for the proposition that “the power of the court to try a person for a crime is not impaired by the fact that he has been brought within the court’s jurisdiction by reason of a forcible abduction.” The Ker-Frisbee doctrine has been endorsed in the face of extradition treaties that were was silent on the propriety of forcible abductions in, inter alia, U.S. v. Alvarez Machainand Kasi v. Angelone. Shibin seeks to distinguish his case by noting that the United States and Somalia do not have an extradition treaty. The lack of such a formalized agreement, according to the defendant, signals the Somali government’s unwillingness to allow foreign officials’ access to their citizens.

This argument seems likely to fail with respect to the Marida Marguerite and will almost certainly fail regarding the Quest. In Alvarez Machain, the Court essentially held that silence as to the propriety of forcible transfers renders American courts unwilling to look into the legality of such transfers. This logic seems to suggest that U.S. courts view the right not to be forcibly brought before a U.S. court as a right that a foreign government must affirmatively assert on behalf of its citizens. Somalia’s silence on the matter is therefore likely to be interpreted in a similar fashion, whether or not that silence comes in the context of an extradition treaty.

The third argument advanced by the defendant is that all of the non-piracy offenses charged in connection to the Marida Marguerite should be dismissed because they are not crimes of universal jurisdiction. These counts include hostage taking and conspiracy to commit hostage, conspiracy to commit violence against maritime navigation and committing violence against maritime navigation, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and kidnapping. Shibin finds support for this argument in U.S. v. Yousef, 327 F.3d 56 at 104 (holding that universal jurisdiction crimes cannot be created judicially, by analogy, or through references to aspirational treaties or scholarly works).

However, this argument ignores the same Charming Betsy Canon upon which the defendant relies in support of his piracy charges. The Charming Betsy Canon states that statutes should not be construed as to violate the law of nations unless Congress manifests its intent to do so. However, 18 U.S.C. § 1203 (hostage taking), 18 U.S.C. § 2280 (violence against maritime navigation), and 18 U.S.C. § 1201 (kidnapping) all contain “found in” or “brought before” provisions stating that the United States shall have jurisdiction over those individuals who are later found in the United States or brought before a U.S. court. Thus Congress provides for some form of qualified universal jurisdiction over hostage taking, violence against maritime navigation, and kidnapping that arguably violates international law. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of precedent stating that courts will uphold such statutes if Congress’ intent is clear. It must be said, tough, that none of this precedent concerns a defendant with no traditional connection to the United States whatsoever, as is the case with Shibin’s charges stemming from the Marida Margueritte.

Finally, Shibin challenges the testimony of an FBI agent concerning a translated interview between that agent and Muhamud Salad Ali, one of the individuals who captured the Quest. Shibin argues that the facts surrounding the translation are such that the translator created an additional level of hearsay, and the translator’s absence from trial constitutes a violation of the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Confrontation Clause. In support of his argument, Shibin relies on a four-part test announced in the Fifth Circuit in U.S. v. Martinez-Gaytanand adopted by the Fourth Circuit in U.S. v. Vidacak. At issue in these cases was whether the translator should be considered an out of court declarant or a mere conduit of the in court witness. The four factors to be considered are: 1) which party supplied the translator; 2) whether the translator had a motive to fabricate; 3) the translator’s qualifications and skills, and; 4) whether actions taken subsequent to the translation were consistent with the statement translated.

According to Shibin, three of the four factors mitigate in favor of requiring the translator’s presence in court for examination. First, the FBI agent in question described the translator as “an FBI Somali linguist,” suggesting that the government supplied the translator. The second factor – potential motive to fabricate – is neutral, as there is no evidence suggesting bias. Third, there is no basis to determine the translator’s skill, as nobody but the prosecution had access to him or her. Finally, Mr. Salad Ali’s testimony in court directly contradicted that which came out of the earlier translated interview. On balance, Shibin argues, the nature of this particular translation created an additional layer of hearsay that can only be remedied through a re-trial of which the Somali translator would need to be a part.

This argument seems plausible on its face, assuming the facts and the law are as the defense brief says they are. Without more research or access to the government’s yet-to-be-filed brief, it is impossible to predict the outcome of this particular argument. I will note, however, that Shibin makes a Confrontation Clause argument that he says should stand regardless of the outcome of the hearsay argument. It seems to me, however, that the hearsay argument and Confrontation Clause argument will rise or fall together. If the translator is deemed a mere conduit of Mr. Salad Ali, the latter of whom was available for confrontation, it would be difficult to argue that the translator’s translation was testimonial.