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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Somali Pirates: U.S. Senator Proposes Legislation for Counter Piracy

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R. IL) has some suggestions on fighting Somali pirates, as set out in a press release from his office:  Kirk to Advance Anti-Piracy Legislation in Wake of Slaying of Four Americans on Arabian Sea:
In the wake of the killings of four Americans last week, U. S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) drew attention Monday to a recent New York Times report detailing the escalating threat to the international shipping industry from increasingly demanding and violent Somali pirates.

Senator Kirk said he will advance anti-piracy legislative options to safeguard U.S. economic and security interests off the coast of east Africa.

“The murder of four Americans shows the requirement for a tough response to Somali pirates,” Senator Kirk said. “This is a growing problem, not only victimizing innocent Americans handing out bibles, but also the safe passage of oil-filled tankers bound for the United States.”
Senator Kirk said he is studying the advancement of several anti-piracy legislative options, including but not limited to, establishment of:

•A ‘Pirate Exclusion Zone’ that would allow the immediate boarding and/or sinking of any vessel from Somalia not approved and certified for sea by allied forces;

•An Expedited Legal Regime permitting trial and detention of pirates captured on the high seas;

•Blockade of pirate-dominated ports like Hobyo, Somalia.

•Broad powers and authority to on-scene commanders to attack or arrest pirates once outside Somalia’s 12-mile territorial limit, including the sinking of vessels if a local commander deems it warranted.

Through his position on the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Kirk will explore financial links between pirates and the terrorist groups al Shabaab and IQIM, and target pirates with financial sanctions in the same way as other terrorist networks. (emphasis added)
It should be noted that Sen. Kirk is also a U.S. Navy Reservist according to his biography.

Update: NPR report on legal issues in trials of pirates-

An interesting look at prosecuting pirates at The United States Must Prosecute Pirates from the National Security Law Brief site (and a hat tip them for the NPR link):
The recent deaths of four Americans at the hands of Somali pirates is leading military and legal scholars to question the ways in which the United States and the world community attempt to prosecutes pirates. The recent standoff involved Somali pirates shooting a rocket propelled [grenade] at Pirates hijack yacht with four Americans on board naval forces and abruptly firing on board a vessel in which they had four Americans as hostages. By the time special forces arrived on deck two hostages were already dead and the remaining two died shortly thereafter.

1 comment:

  1. Sal Mercogliano2:20 PM

    In all honesty, what is Kirk trying to say?

    What lesson can we learn from Decatur torching the Philadelphia? Yes, he prevented the pirates from gaining one of our frigates, but it resulted in a massive diminishing of American naval forces in the Mediterranean and the capture of 307 crewmembers. This is the danger of trying to fight pirates with historical analogies instead of a real strategy.

    If we are looking for lessons, I would strongly recommend we look at what President Monroe did in the Caribbean during the period from 1819 to 1825 to battle West Indian pirates among the breakaway republics of Spain and in the lawless areas of the Caribbean.

    What is needed is small, mobile forces, that can search and hunt out the pirates in their bases, while convoys and protection are provided offshore. Currently, we only have the latter, and there is no effort to get in along the coast of the Horn of Africa and make this profession unprofitable.

    Additionally, the act of Congress in 1819 that authorized this action specified that pirates captured in a jurisdiction should be turned over to that area for trial and if caught at sea or on American territory, they would be tried in Federal district court, wherever they were landed, but the sentance for piracy was specified as death.

    The Constitution is very clear, that it is Congress who has (according to Article I, Section 8) the power to, "define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and offences against the law of nations."

    Salvatore R. Mercogliano, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of History
    Campbell University