U.S. Department of State¬†Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update
The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on January 14, 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851. This voluntary ad hoc international forum brings together over 80 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a shared interest in combating piracy. Chaired in 2013 by the United States, the Contact Group coordinates political, military, and non-governmental efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, ensure that pirates are brought to justice, and support regional states to develop sustainable maritime security capabilities. The European Union will assume the chairmanship in 2014.
Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on a wide range of international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach to piracy, working closely with Somali officials from the central government and regional administrations and officials in Indian Ocean States. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on operational naval coordination, information sharing, and capacity building; Working Group 2, chaired by Denmark, addresses legal and judicial issues; Working Group 3, chaired by the Republic of Korea, works closely with the shipping industry to enhance awareness and build capabilities among seafarers transiting the region; Working Group 4, chaired by Egypt, aims at raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy; and Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, focuses on disrupting the pirate criminal enterprise ashore, including the illicit financial flows associated with maritime piracy.
This unique international partnership is contributing to a significant decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa. The last successful pirate attack on a major merchant vessel in the region occurred on May 10, 2012.
– A physician from the United Nations Hostage Support Program (UNHSP) visited hostages from the M/V ALBEDO in late August and mid September to treat 11 crewmen held captive for nearly three years. The men were suffering from rashes and infections, and required medicine for malaria, controlling blood pressure and stomach ailments caused by drinking dirty water.
– The UNHSP visited released hostages and families in Doha, London and Dubai and documented that little or no help has been provided for these seafarers since their release.
Apprehensions at Sea
– None reported
Piracy Trials and Prosecution Support
– On October 12, Belgian police arrested Mohamed Abdi Hassan at Brussels airport. Hassan, whose nickname, Afweyne, means “Big Mouth,” and whom the United Nations has called “one of the most notorious and influential leaders” of a major Somali pirate organization. Hassan is believed responsible for the hijacking of dozens of commercial vessels from 2008 to 2013. In a sting operation, Hassan was lured from Somalia to Belgium with promises of work on a documentary about high-seas crime. Belgian authorities also arrested an accomplice, Mohammad Aden Tiiceey.
– Also on October 7, Spain began the trial of six Somalis accused of attacking the EU NAVFOR ship SPS PATINO in early January, 2012. Spain said the six apparently mistook the warship for a trawler and broke off an attack when the ship returned fire. The six claimed they were innocent fishermen.
– On October 7, Mauritius delayed the trial of 12 suspected Somali pirates due to the illness of one of the accused. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) had two interpreters there to translate in the courtroom. A third UNODC interpreter who was present for the translation of the defendants’ statements in the investigation will be called as a prosecution witness.
– On October 5, the counter-piracy Force Commanders from Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), the EU Naval Force and NATO met at sea off the Somali Coast on board the EU Naval Force flagship, HNLMS JOHAN DE WITT. The meeting was to review the current and future situation concerning piracy in the Indian Ocean and to share information. Commodore Peter Lenselink from the Royal Netherlands Navy welcomed on board Commodore Jeremy Blunden from the Royal Navy (CMF) and Commodore Henning Amundsen from the Royal Norwegian Navy (NATO Operation Ocean Shield).
– On October 2, the Seychellois Supreme Court passed sentence on the 11 Somali pirates convicted on three counts of piracy against the M/V SUPER LADY. The adults were given a 16-year sentence for each charge (to run concurrently). The youngest of the group was given an 18 month sentence which, taking account of the time he has served meant he was released immediately. He was returned to his family in Somalia within one week. The 11 were captured by the Dutch Navy ship HNLMS VAN AMSTEL, operating under Operation ATALANTA.
– On September 19, a Tanzanian court found procedural problems in the trial of seven accused Somali pirates. The High Court in Dar es Salaam ordered a lower court to conduct proper committal proceedings in the trial against the seven, who are charged with attacking the oil exploration vessel M/V SAM S ALL-GOOD within Tanzania’s waters. The Tanzanian navy captured the Somali suspects in October 2011.
– On September 10, Spain’s National Court sentenced six Somali pirates to jail for attempting to kidnap the crew of a fishing boat. They will likely serve 40 years each. The pirates targeted the F/V IZURDIA in October 2012 while it was sailing in the Indian Ocean. A French Ship, the FS LA FAYETTE, working under EUNAVFOR’s Operation ATALANTA, and the Dutch ship HNLMS ROTTERDAM, working under NATO’s Operation OCEAN SHIELD, caught the pirates October 24, 2012.
– On September 5, a U.S. Appellate Court ordered pirate interpreter Ali Mohammed Ali returned to custody. The ruling came just 24 hours after a U.S. District Court Judge in Virginia freed Ali pending trial because he was held in pre-trial detention for 28 months.
– Also on September 2, the trial of nine defendants accused of involvement in the unsuccessful pirate attack on M/V ALBA STAR in February 2013 commenced in the Seychellois Supreme Court. Dutch naval officers from HNLMS DE RUYTER (operating under EUNAVFOR’s Operation ATALANTA) as well as officers from the Spanish maritime aerial reconnaissance patrol gave evidence.
– On September 2, a Malaysian court sentenced seven Somali pirates to eight to 10 years imprisonment for shooting at Malaysian troops on board a tanker in Gulf of Aden. The pirates boarded the Malaysian-operated chemical tanker M/T BUNGA LAUREL in January of 2011. A Royal Malaysian Navy ship, the MT BUNGA MAS LIMA, captured the pirates a few hours later.
– A U.S. jury on August 2 recommended that three Somali pirates be sentenced to life in prison in the slayings of four Americans aboard the yacht QUEST off the coast of Africa. Formal sentencing is set for October and November. Eleven of the pirates who attacked the QUEST pleaded guilty in federal court in 2011 and were given life sentences. The onshore negotiator working for the pirates also received multiple life sentences.
– On July 23, the Seychellois Supreme Court convicted six Somali pirates accused of acts of piracy against the M/V BURHAN NOOR. Five of the six received sentences of 24 years. The other convicted pirate, aged 15, was sentenced to 12 years. The six were captured August 13, 2012, by the Dutch Navy ship HNLMS ROTTERDAM, working under NATO’s Operation OCEAN SHIELD.
– On July 30, the Magistrates Court in Mombasa, Kenya delivered sentence in the M/V COURIER case. Nine pirates, apprehended by the German frigate RHEINLAND-PFALZ, working under EUNAVFOR’s Operation ATALANTA, and the American destroy USS MONTEREY of CTF 151, on March 3, 2009, received sentences of five years which will start from the date of judgment.
Prisons and Prisoner Transfers
– The UNODC reported two successful prisoner transfers from the Seychelles to the Bossaso Prison in Puntland. Another four convicted pirates who completed their prison sentences were returned to Galkyo. The 15 represent convictions in six different cases conducted in Seychelles and were arrested by Denmark, EU, Netherlands and the UK.
– Ambassador Chul Huh, the new Korean Chair of the CGPCS Working Group 3 (WG 3), convened a meeting at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) headquarters in London on 9 September.
– The group supported the revised draft “Interim Guidelines on Measures to Provide Welfare for Seafarers and Their Families Affected by Piracy.”
– NATO noted that the mandate for Operation OCEAN SHIELD (OOS) will expire at the end of 2014. EUNAVOR Operation ATALANTA is facing a similar timeline. Each of the two groups will hold discussions on their this fall regarding the way ahead.
– The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is reviewing the definition of the HRA among industry. ICS also stated ISO PAS 28007 is being successfully piloted in the UK and should be completed by the end of the year.
– IMO said the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) of the Djibouti Code of Conduct assisted in the delivery of training to some 700 personnel in Djibouti.
– The Fourth Meeting of the CGPCS Working Group 1 Capacity Building Coordination Group (CBCG) took place in Dubai on 10 September. The CBCG noted that no regional countries reported needs since the meeting in June. It then adopted the mechanism of dispatching representatives to work with governments in the region to review all projects and support the formulation of needs. The CBCG put immediate priority on Somalia, Tanzania and Yemen for project review as well as finalizing the work on Kenya.
– The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute plans to conduct the second of a series of workshops for legal experts in Rome on October 15-16 to draft a code of conduct on Rules for the Use of Force by Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel on board merchant ships.
– The U.S. Department of State awarded the UNODC an Anti-Piracy Incentive Fund grant of nearly 1.3 million dollars to increase the efficiency and capacity of the Seychellois and Kenyan court systems to prosecute suspected pirates and other legal cases.
– On September 11 in Dubai, Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Coordination Center (RAPPICC) leaders said the Center it will transition to a regional Maritime Center for Security and Transnational Crime. RAPPICC leaders want to develop sustainable regional capacity and capability to bring pirate leaders, financiers and enablers to justice and deprive them of the proceeds of their crimes. The center has three specific objectives: A) Intelligence development; B) Investigation and prosecution; and C) Capacity and capability building. RAPPICC will act as a regional hub for Interpol, providing extra resources and regional support for prosecuting states.
– Acording to an INTERPOL spokesperson, INTERPOL and RAPPICC are working on a joint, ambitious plan of action to target the leadership of the piracy networks and breathe life in UNSCR 2077.
– The Ukrainian Navy frigate HETMAN SAGAIYDACHNIY has joined NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, marking the first time a partner nation has contributed to the western military alliance’s counter-piracy effort.
Hostages in Custody
– At least 50 hostage seafarers remain in pirate custody. Only F/V NAHAM 3 is still held by pirates, although it has now run aground; the M/V ALBEDO sank at anchor off Haradhere on July 8, 2013.
– 28 on F/V NAHAM 3 (Oman-flagged), hijacked March 26, 2012.
– Four held since April 18, 2010 from PRANTALAY 12 and 7 held since April 16, 2011 from M/V ASHPALT VENTURE.