| by Sarath Wijesinghe
( February 13, UAE, Sri Lanka Guardian) Maritime Piracy is a threat to all nations and is a crime subject to universal jurisdiction. States are called upon to favourably consider the prosecution of suspected and imprisonment of convicted pirates, consistent with applicable International Human Rights Law and United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
Pirates are considered by International Law as common enemies of all mankind. The world naturally has an interest in the punishment of offenders and is justified in adopting international measures for the application of universal rules regarding the control of terrorism. The common understanding between States has been that pirates should be lawfully captured from the high seas.
Capturing pirates in the high seas have become an extremely difficult task due to the vastness of the area and lack of resources. Despite attempts to concerted acts of nations and the United Nations to combat piracy they freely engage in disturbing the world peace by attacking the economy by blocking and harming the sea routes. The only way the goods and especially oil and gas are transported via high sea. Most ships are unarmed. Even though they are armed in the high seas pirates can be powerful as they are people who have risked everything to achieve their ends. It is informed that few pirates somehowcome home alive as the fighting in the high seas are dangerous.
Security Council of the United Nations has discussed this extensively in the highest levels. The Council adopted resolution 1897 reviewing the anti-piracy measures of resolution1846 and 1851 for another 12 months. With all that piracy continues.
It is informed that it is mainly around Somalia that the pirates are active. Unfortunately Somalia is a country which has problems of law and order when the Government is not effective due to instability. Therefore the pirates have a free hand to carry on their illegal activities.
The countries affected from piracy are not only islands or countries facing high seas. Every nation is affected because the piracy increases insurance claims and expenditure on sea transport. The world depends on sea for transport of goods. Therefore sea must be a peaceful place for navigation. Sea has been a place of war from time immemorial but the irony is despite the advancement of science pirates are able to act freely and keep ships in custody claiming ransom in cash.
Most pirates are not prosecuted because prosecution in piracy is a complicated and a tedious process. On the other hand the law is not clear and complicated.
Some countries and companies prefer to pay the ransom and get the ships cleared rather than prosecution. Finding witnesses, jurisdiction and court houses are tedious. The pirates are aware of this scenario. Once they are caught they have been warned and generally set free. Piracy has become streamlined and has remnants of professionalism. There are high ranking investors for piracy. Rich people spend heavily on pirates who become agents of the investors. Ransom is demanded in cash . Therefore at times it is dropped by helicopters. This shows there is an understanding and even intermediators for settlement. The moment a ship is hijacked the agents become active, they negotiate with the governments and companies.
United Nations and number of countries directly affected are in the voyage of finding a solution to control piracy. According to SomalianGovernment they are unable to control piracy because it has become powerful and organized locally and internationally. Somalia is a poor country thereby piracy has become a lucrative and a steady source of income. The earnings of piracyfrom leaders trickle down to village level, thereby the piracy is supported by the common man.
The International Maritime Organization recorded by November 2008that there had been 92 attacks on ships in the year . A UN Report recorded that 44 ships were seized by pirates in 2008 with more than 600 sailors held for ransom. The report further states that in the first nine months of 2010 34 ships were hijacked and in excess of 450 seafarers were taken hostage.
Piracy is an act of terrorism. Terrorism has involved groups seeking to overthrow specific regimes to rectify perceive national or group grievances or to undermine international order as an end itself. But there is no consensus among the world community that terrorism is an offence between established principles of law.
What is currently needed is a joint and concerted effort of the United Nations and the entire world community on combating this dreadful menace. Sri Lanka being an island is directly affected on piracy. There are number of Sri Lankans and ships currently affected as hostages . It is very difficult to settle matters of small considerations because the expectations of pirates are extremely high. For example on hijacking ships of high value such as oil the pirates promptly get their share whereas small ships with small consignments are not able to pay a substantial ransom.
United Arab Emirates is an oil rich country and pioneers in naval power. They are experts and leaders in naval exercises. The seminar organized last year on global challenge regional responses forging a common approach to maritime piracy has been extremely successful as the workshop was represented by the world body and member of the world family. Sri Lanka was represented by the Deputy Minister of External Affairs, the Navy Commander and a group headed by the Sri Lankan Ambassador in the UAE. Very important and constructive measures were taken during the process to set up a fund to help Somalia and the piracy producing countries to uplift their income and to transform their countries into democracies so that there will be no place for pirates and piracy. There are important matters discussed and arrived at the deliberations for a joint and concerted effort to combating piracy.It is time that we discuss how Sri Lanka and the Navy could assist the world community in combating piracy. The world respects Sri Lanka as experts and experienced in naval exercises in the rough sea . It is informed that many naval forces worldwide are watching Sri Lankan exercises in the Indian Ocean as a guideline as Sri Lankans are experts in combating terrorism and protecting the sea. It is time that Sri Lanka offers assistance to the world in combating piracy and terrorism.
( The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )