17 November 2009 - PIRACY ON THE RISE OFF SOMALIA – A “LONG-TERM REGIONAL SOLUTION” IS NEEDED SAYS EXPERT
Any lasting and effective initiative against the pirates in the Gulf of Aden must involve improved governance in Somalia, according to several presentations to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Sunday. The Commanders of the NATO and EU Operations respectively, briefed a joint meeting of two of the Assembly’s five committees, while Rapporteur Lord Jopling (UK) presented his report on the issue. Lord Jopling argued for a “comprehensive approach, combining diplomacy, naval deployments and development assistance” in the region.
He said that this comprehensive approach should promote a “long-term regional solution” by “assisting states of the region to build the capacity to tackle piracy and other regional security challenges on their own”. This regional capacity could “eventually replace NATO at sea” in the area, added Vice Admiral Hans-Jochen Witthauer, Deputy Commander of the NATO’s Allied Maritime Component Command in Northwood, UK.
Over 168 incidents of piracy were reported off Somalia in the first nine months of 2009 compared to 111 over the whole year of 2008, said Lord Jopling. Although most of these attacks were repelled, 533 hostages have nonetheless been taken in 2009 so far, of which 150 are still held by the pirates, and the level of the ransoms they demand continues to rise. Lord Jopling also stressed that “the international naval presence has undeniably had a deterrent effect”.
The lack of viable economic alternatives in
Witthauer, expressed his belief that “the legal framework is lagging behind reality” and needs to be adapted, in particular in the application of the UN convention on the law of the sea. “We still haven’t found the best way” of transposing international law to the national level, he said. This was backed up by Joao Rebelo of the Portuguese delegation, who confirmed that his country’s legislation prevents them from trying pirates arrested on the open seas. Lord Jopling encouraged NATO to look to the EU’s example of transferring arrested pirates to
He added that NATO Task Force 508 (the name given to the group of NATO vessels currently on duty off
Increased aerial surveillance was mentioned as one tool in addressing the challenge of the sheer size of the area of operations. The Gulf of Aden and
While no link between Somali pirates and Al Qaeda has yet been demonstrated conclusively, said Lord Jopling, there is growing concern about the strength of the Al Shabaab movement and alleged links with other fundamentalist groups. Rear Admiral Hudson said he believes “the jury is still out” on the question of whether the money from piracy directly supports terrorism. Interpol is investigating this, he said. Vice Admiral Witthauer was equally cautious, pointing out that NATO has no intelligence-gathering measures of its own and relies on information from Member States.